A Rebuttal to Cato’s Criticism of Indiana’s E-Verify Legislation

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 1.36.40 PMOn Tuesday, January 18, Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh published a piece that advocated against Indiana state Senator Mike Delph’s new E-Verify legislation, Senate Bill 285. Senator Delph’s bill, which would prohibit employers from knowingly employing illegal aliens in the state, provides a “safe harbor” or immunity to those employers who utilize the federal government’s E-Verify system to verify the employment authorization of each new hire. In his piece, Mr. Nowrasteh argues that the bill would do little to deter illegal immigration into the state, and would instead impose high costs to Indiana’s employers. Mr. Nowrasteh fails to back up his conclusions and instead uses misleading statistics and incorrect data in an attempt to scare his readers away from common sense measures states can take to protect their workers.

Overseen by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), E-Verify is a voluntary online system that allows employers to quickly check the work authorization status of their new hires.  E-Verify works by allowing employers to electronically compare information taken from the Form I-9 (the paper-based form currently used to verify the work eligibility of all new hires) against 455 million records in Social Security Administration’s database and 80 million records in the Department of Homeland Security immigration databases. To encourage E-Verify use in the state and protect employers who verify the employment status of their new employees in good faith, SB 285’s safe harbor provision establishes a rebuttable presumption that any employer who uses E-Verify must not have knowingly employed an unauthorized alien, in violation of the measure.

The bulk of Nowrasteh’s argument against the bill relies on the idea that E-Verify adds red tape to Indiana’s economy. He characterizes the internet based program as a “faulty system which misidentifies a small percentage of Americans as unauthorized to work.” Mr. Nowrasteh, however, fails to disclose the relatively easy to find statistic on exactly how many individuals indeed receive a mismatch, or in other words, received a “tentative non-confirmation” result instead of being confirmed automatically as work authorized.

While it is certainly understandable to be wary of the effectiveness of any government-created program, E-Verify appears to be an exception.  An audit by Verification Information System (VIS) Transaction Data revealed that between October 2014 and September 2015, 98.7 percent of all queries entered into the program were automatically confirmed as work authorized. That leaves just 1.13 percent of employees who received an initial “tentative non-confirmation.” These figures show an improvement from a 2008 audit conducted by Westat, an independent research firm. Westat’s data revealed that between July and September 2008, 96.9 percent of all queries were automatically confirmed as work authorized, leaving 3.1 percent of employees receiving an initial “tentative non-conformation.”

It is important to note that when an employee receives a “tentative non-confirmation,” that it is not a final determination that the employee is indeed unauthorized. Rather, it merely indicates that the employee’s records differ from data possessed by the federal government and further communication is required. While the new employee sorts out the discrepancy with the federal government, employers are prohibited from taking any adverse action against the employee, meaning the employee may begin working. In fact, the majority of these discrepancies are resolved within 24 to 72 hours and do not prevent eligible workers from being hired.

Of the 1.13 percent of employees who received the “tentative non-confirmation,” less than a percent, .67 to be exact, of these employees actually had a mismatch in the system, meaning they were actually authorized to work. Using these statistics, 99.33 percent of Americans run through E-Verify should expect to receive an ultimate confirmation of work authorization.

Mr. Nowrasteh suggests in his article that, despite these figures, the chance for a mistake is just too great of a risk and it discourages entrepreneurs from investing in new businesses. His assumption fails to take into account that under SB 285, a violation of the law does not occur if the employer did not know that they were hiring an unauthorized alien and the employer took reasonable measures to verify the work authorization of the new hire. SB 285 only penalizes employers for knowingly employing a worker who is unauthorized to work in the United States.  Moreover, Mr. Nowrasteh’s assumption also completely ignores the measure’s safe harbor provision for all employers who utilize E-Verify and make a good faith effort to comply with its terms. Thus, any entrepreneur who decides not to invest because of SB 285 probably intended to hire unauthorized workers to begin with.  Such unscrupulous employers prefer illegal aliens over American workers because they wish to pay their employees below fair market wages and avoid obligations they owe their employees under state and federal law, such as compensation for over-time and other basic employment benefits. Indiana should not, as Mr. Nowrasteh suggests, support policies that allow employers to exploit individuals at the expense of American workers.

Mr. Nowrasteh also states that there is an average cost of $147 per E-Verify check, but does not provide at all in his analysis where these costs originate or how he made this estimation. How Mr. Nowrasteh arrives at this number is puzzling for a few reasons. First, E-Verify is a 100% free program. Any employer with access to the internet can use E-Verify at no cost. Second, because employers are already required by federal law to verify the work authorization of newly hired employees using the Form I-9, employers hardly have to spend any extra time at all to verify the work authorization.  The program requires the same documents to be produced. No extra personnel should be required to conduct this function because verification should have already been conducted anyway.

Mr. Nowrasteh also contests the effectiveness of E-Verify to do the one thing it is designed to do: uncover whether a worker is authorized to work in the United States. Without sharing any evidence in support of this outrageous statistic, Mr. Nowrasteh claims that the federal program approves 54 percent of unauthorized workers entered into the system as eligible to work. Data obtained by USCIS through VIS, as discussed above, revealed a 98.87 percent accuracy rate. To the contrary, E-Verify stops 100 percent of all social security number (SSN)-only job-related identity theft because full name, SSN, date of birth, gender and photographic identification must all match. If the information input into E-Verify does not match, E-Verify will return a tentative non-confirmation message.

Despite Mr. Nowrasteh’s complaints about the program, few other government-created programs can boast as high of an approval rating as E-Verify has received by its users. According to the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), E-Verify received a user satisfaction score of 87 out of 100. Additionally, the ACSI indicated that of all users who contacted customer service, 96 percent had their issued resolved. Additionally, 92 percent of users had their issued resolved during the first phone call.

E-Verify is simply the easiest, most effective and cost friendly way to ensure that American jobs are protected for American citizens and aliens who have been authorized to work in the U.S. by the federal government. SB 285 would go a long way to ensure that American workers have a fair chance to work for fair wages at local jobs. Just as importantly, SB 285 will help ensure employers in the state do not violate federal law and exploit unauthorized laborers at the expense of the rest of us.

Recommended Reading:

E-Verify Talking Points

Video: The E-Verify Solution for Illegal Hiring

About Author


Content written by Federation for American Immigration Reform staff.


  1. avatar
    Stinky Cheese Man on

    Alex Nowsrahteh is an illegal himself, and he is a pimp for more immigration of others like him.

  2. avatar

    Excerpts from the Basic Plan for Immigration Control (5th Edition)
    Ministry of Justice, Japan
    September 2015

    –Although the number of illegal residents has been greatly reduced, there are still about 60,000
    illegal residents in Japan.

    –While there has been a decline in the number of illegal residents, one problem in terms of proper immigration control is the existence of imposter residents, requiring urgent countermeasures. Pursuant to the new residency management system introduced on July 9, 2012, mid to long-term residents are obliged to submit a notification on their place of residence and the organization of affiliation to which they belong, and immigration inspectors and immigration control officers are now able to conduct an inquiry into the facts related to these notifications. Since imposter residents appear to be legitimate residents, there is very little information to serve as clues which can be obtained from members of the general public and also, since it takes considerable time to uncover the real situation, it is necessary to continue with measures to continuously keep track of information on mid to long-term residents by collecting and closely analyzing the information given in the notifications submitted by the mid to long-term residents and their organizations of affiliation to the Immigration Bureau as well as the information in the notifications on the situation of employment of foreign nationals provided by the relevant organizations, and to proactively utilize the power to inquire into the facts and to explore new investigation techniques.

    –Cooperation with the police and other law enforcement agencies is essential in immigration control administration. We will continue to maintain cooperative relations in the future such as through joint detection of illegal residents and mutual provision of information and through mutually complementing each other’s undercover investigations.

    –The utilization of effective information can be said to be the cornerstone when conducting proper immigration control administration. In December 2013, the “Strategy to Make Japan ‘the Safest Country in the World’” was approved by the Cabinet, and this strategy also referred to strengthening the functions of intelligence (collection and analysis of information) in immigration control administration and working on effective countermeasures against illegal residents and imposter residents and preventing the entry of terrorists and other high-risk foreign nationals by collecting a variety of information through the cooperation of the relevant organizations and performing sophisticated analysis.

    –Moreover, much as it is useful to match the information on notifications on the situation of the employment of the foreign nationals held by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the information held by the Immigration Bureau in order to keep track of the employment status of foreign nationals, since sharing information with the relevant organizations and effective use of the information provided by the relevant organizations is important, we will continue to reinforce cooperation with the relevant organizations in the future.

    • avatar

      An announcement from Japan’s Ministry of Justice:

      Mid and long term residents are required to report themselves in the following cases.
      Procedure at Regional Immigration Bureaus

      When you decide or change the place of residence
      Please report the place of residence by presenting a residence card to the municipal office where you live in within 14 days of the day when you decide a new place of residence or change the place of residence.
      (Note) For those with a passport in which “Residence card to be issued later” was written down at the time of entry into Japan around the seal of verification for landing, please report the place of residence by presenting the passport instead of a residence card

      Please ask the municipal office with regard to a notification of moving in and a notification of change of address based on the Basic Resident Registration Act.

      When you change your name, nationality/ region, etc.
      Please notify the Minister of Justice on any change on the name, date of birth, sex, or nationality/ region due to marriage, etc., by presenting a passport, a photo, a residence card, and materials which can be used to verify the fact of the change at Regional Immigration Bureaus within 14 days of the day when the change was made.

      When the organization to which you belong, etc. has been changed
      Those with status of residence for employment (with exceptions), international students, and trainees
      For those who stay in Japan with status of “Professor, Highly Skilled Professional, Business Manager, Legal/ Accounting Services, Medical Services, Researcher, Instructor, Engineer/ Specialist in Humanities/ International Services, Intra-company Transferee, Entertainer (limited to those who engage in activities related to the status concerned based on a contract with a public or private organization in Japan), Skilled Labor, Technical Intern Training, Student, or Trainee”,
      please notify the Minister of Justice by reporting to Regional Immigration Bureaus, mailing to Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, or using the “Immigration Bureau’s Electronic Notification System” through internet within 14 days of the day when change was made to the name or location of the organization including employer, educational organization, etc. which the foreigners belonged to, when the company bankrupted, when the employment contract terminated, and when the foreigners moved to another company through concluding another
      employment contract.

      With the new residency management system introduced, reasons for revocation of status, deportation, and penalties have been newly established as following.

      Revocation of status
      Have failed to give notification of the place of residence without a justifiable reason or have submitted a false notification.

      Grounds for deportation
      Have been sentenced to imprisonment with labor or a heavier punishment for submitting a false notification or similar act.

      Have submitted a false notification or have violated the obligation to submit a notification relating to any of the notifications required.

      • avatar

        I was reading a study done in Japan several years ago in which all the benefits and advantages of immigration were added up according to various education levels. In other words, not this simplistic nonsense here about how low income immigrants will “pay taxes” as if that’s the end of it. The Japan study found that low income immigrants, not surprisingly, were more likely to be an economic burden than anything else.

        Does anyone here seriously believe, other than illegal advocates, that low income people who typically have large families are going to be an economic asset if they are given citizenship. Just the fact that they would become eligible for the earned income tax credit blows that argument out of the water. And that’s just the start of the costs which include what states and local communities must pay.

        • avatar

          Leland really and how do you based this on?…let me see the largest Welfare demographics Whites, second African Americans…next hispanics….so AGAIN how does it work?

          Let me see Trump, Cruz, out of the boat, Steve Jobs, etc 2 generations away from the boat…….

          Leland talk what you can back up…you know nothing you just bark bark n bark…no BiTE!!!

      • avatar

        SecBorders and Leland we are not Japan, nor Germany we are the USA……..you’d better move to Russia you will feel at home there…….

  3. avatar

    Nowrasteh doesn’t want any system of checking at all. He favors open borders and has said so. Like most of his kind, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. None of these people can admit that there is any limit on the number of people who they would admit, when polls show half of India’s billion people would come here if they could. That’s one country.

    What they never get around to explaining is who is going to pay for the infrastructure costs, which would be astronomical, for the schools, highways, utilities, water and electrical systems, and all the other costs their minimum wage workers would incur. California is basically in a water emergency because they have used up all their groundwater.

    And as noted, employers are forbidden from letting the person start work because of a no match. They can work while it’s sorted out, if they are legitimate, and no one is proposing not letting that person begin work. It’s only those unauthorized to work who have to worry. Britain by the way has begun confiscating paychecks of those working illegally.

    There was a story in the NY Times about tech workers bringing a law suit against Disney because they got fired while H1B workers were hired. One of the comments on the story said that the workers should “use it as an opportunity to further their education”. You mean a tech degree is not good enough to get you a job? And what job is safe if business can bring in visa workers when they want.
    As one example of how ridiculous his thinking is, he claims just checking a SS number by e-verify would cost $147. Does it cost a grocery store $147 to check the credit card number that is issued to you only? The one and only difference would be that a person at the company types in 9 digits. That takes, what, 5 seconds?

    • avatar

      all this illegal issue is a non-issue…..really it never was……A REAL BIG ISSUE..the reason you lost your job and was forced to retired…outside worker, welfare, somalis, cubans…etc

      The legality that exists in the illegality…….