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The Party Of No Morphs Into The Party Of “No Way Jose”

With the jobs bill that just passed the Senate, a small group of Republicans trotted out its all-purpose boogeyman: “illegals”

Another bill moves through the Senate to help the American economy and the Republicans in that body try to add an immigration rider to it. As has become his habit, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama had been exerting pressure all week to make the E-Verify electronic employment verification system part of the jobs bill that just passed the Senate. He argues that unless employers are compelled to verify the eligibility of every worker on their payroll, some of the benefits of the jobs bill could conceivably go to the GOP’s all-purpose boogeyman: “illegals.”

Yes, whether it’s “cars for clunkers” the stimulus bill, or any other time-sensitive help for America’s sluggish economy, the “Party of No” finds a way to transform itself into the “Party of No Way Jose.” And it is usually Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the junior Senator from Alabama, leading the way.

Spurred on by the usual anti-immigration lobby groups, Sessions led a group of seven Senators in a  letter to the President calling for immigration restrictions on the jobs bill that passed the Senate on a  70-28 vote on Wednesday night. Fellow Republicans Jim Bunning (KY), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Tom Coburn (OK), Chuck Grassley (IA), James Inhofe (OK), Johnny Isakson (GA), and David Vitter joined sessions on this occasion and NumberUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform lit up their lists and twitterati to support Sessions and his fellow Senators.

What Is E-Verify?

E-Verify is an electronic employment verification system that checks your Social Security number against a federal database to tell your employer whether or not you’re authorized to work in the United States. It is not just for immigrants, but for everybody hired by an employer in the program.

While it sounds like a logical idea, it doesn’t work as well as it should. The data used in the federal database is not reliable enough, the process for correcting mistakes is not what it needs to be, and one more thing: it doesn’t do a very good job of keeping unauthorized workers from working.

If you’re an immigrant in the country illegally and you’ve been working on a false or borrowed Social Security number for a while, you may not get caught by the E-Verify check. The Swift company found that out the hard way when a series of meat processing plants were raided and workers carted away and deported. Swift was an early adopter of the E-Verify system and says it was using it for all its hires.  [ AP is reporting today that a new Migration Policy Institute study found 54% of undocumented workers got through a check by E-Verify without being detected.] Face it, most unauthorized workers have been in the U.S. for a number of years and have gotten through the process of filling out the I-9 form with employers, often multiple times. It’s also worth remembering that most unauthorized immigrants are “on-the-books.” The Social Security Administration estimates that 75 percent of undocumented immigrants are on the tax rolls getting the full load of payroll taxes withheld from their checks.

And therein lies another problem. Let’s say E-Verify does do a reasonably good job of identifying unauthorized workers and preventing them from working on-the-books. That doesn’t mean their work won’t then happen off-the-books. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office looked at a previous plan to make E-Verify mandatory and estimated it would cost the U.S. taxpayer more than $17 billion over ten years as work formerly conducted above board got pushed into the under-the-table cash – and untaxed – economy.