The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, speaks as immigration reform legislation by the Senate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, speaks as immigration reform legislation by the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that would create a path for the nation's 11 million unauthorized immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship, Thursday, April 18, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  

Immigration bill guts E-Verify for years

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The Senate’s complex immigration bill would instantly gut the popular E-Verify system that is widely used to exclude illegal immigrants from jobs, and then create an enforcement gap for several years before the arrival of a replacement system.

“There’s no doubt that the bill eliminates E-Verify immediately upon signing,” said Kris Kobach, secretary of state of Kansas, told The Daily Caller.

“If there’s no statutory authority for E-Verify, there’s no E-Verify,” said Kobach, a lawyer trained at Harvard, Oxford and Yale universities, and a prominent advocate for reduced immigration.

The claim is vehemently disputed by the bills’ advocates, including staffers working for Sen. Marco Rubio.

However, Rubio staffers were unable to show TheDC any text in the legislation that gives the current E-Verify system legal backing until the new system is mandated in several years.

The multi-year gap in E-Verify enforcement creates a political problem for Rubio and the other advocates of the Senate immigration bill.

The E-Verify rules are critical to Rubio and his allies as they try to pass their pending immigration revamp, partly because a large swath of the public is worried about the economic impact of immigrants, both legal and illegal.

An April 20-22 poll by Fox News of 1,009 registered voters showed that 55 percent of respondents want a reduction in the number of legal immigrants. That 55 percent includes 45 percent of non-whites and 62 percent of people without college degrees.

The new bill would sharply increase the current annual inflow of roughly 1 million immigrants and 650,000 company-sponsored, temporary workers for blue-collar and professional jobs.

The E-Verify system is voluntarily used by 350,000 employers to screen job applicants. It was created in 1997 as the “Basic Pilot Program,” and it uses the Internet to let employers compare job applicants’ claimed identities — and sometimes, their pictures — against a federal record of residents and citizens. The use of E-Verify is now mandatory in several states, including Georgia and North Carolina.

Despite the apparent multi-year gap in enforcement, Rubio has emphatically promoted the bill by highlighting its verification requirements.

“One of the things we’ve known for a long time is that the magnet that draws illegal immigrants to the United States is employment,” he said in an April 25 TownHall.com interview.

“This law mandates a universal E-Verify system. It is not an option, it is a mandate. They must do it,” he said.

“This bill requires the full implementation of a universal E-Verify system,” Rubio said on Mark Levin’s radio show April 17. Without a bill, he said, “you won’t have E-Verify.”

In several emails to TheDC, Rubio’s spokesman repeatedly denounced Kobach’s analysis. But the spokesman declined to supply bill language that shows how E-Verify is enforced once it is canceled, and before a replacement is developed by contractors, deployed by agencies and approved by the courts. A PDF of the entire bill is available here.

“The existing system will continue and will be enhanced along the way,” Alex Conant said in an April 23 email to TheDC.

However, despite repeated requests , Conant did not identify a paragraph in the bill showing how enforcement of E-Verify would continue uninterrupted once the program is canceled immediately after the bill becomes law.

“We create a transition from a temporary program to the permanent program,” he said next.

“That whole section of the bill is about creating a permanent E-Verify system,” he said in his next email.

Page “503 & 504 make clear that the transition & construction will not give people an opportunity in the system to stop using the system. This is clear to the business groups, the unions, and everybody else that has reviewed the legislation,” he said in an April 24 response.