Gaming the System to Fake Compliance with Work Verification Requirements

By Dan Cadman on August 20, 2019

Just about as soon as the ICE raids on poultry agribusinesses in Mississippi (which netted hundreds of aliens working without authorization) were over, the affected employers began protesting with wide-eyed innocence that they couldn't understand quite how this situation had come about since they had been using the government's E-verify system to vet all of their employees.

The assertions had familiar overtones, although the last time we heard something similar, it was more ominous because it was in relation to an illegal alien working at a farm in Iowa who was charged with the murder of Mollie Tibbetts. That farm, too, claimed that it had thoroughly vetted the man charged.

Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute used the poultry plants' claims as proof that the E-Verify system was fatally flawed and so should be shut down:

For those who don't know, the Cato Institute has a libertarian bent. While libertarians may in many regards hold views similar to those of conservatives, one glaring exception is in the matter of immigration, where their views, for reasons having to do with open markets, are indistinguishable from those of open-borders advocates on the left.

The problem is that Nowrasteh's own Twitter views and commentary are themselves fundamentally flawed. My colleague Art Arthur, and Eric Ruark at NumbersUSA, have both written blogs addressing these employers' claims. Using the substantial amount of information already in the public domain from news accounts and official sources at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, they show pretty clearly that all of these employers were gaming the system to achieve what they wanted: a cheap, docile labor force that would be willing to work under any circumstances because of its primarily illegal immigration status, while at the same time appearing to be in superficial compliance. I have no doubt that's exactly what the U.S. Attorney's Office will say when presenting its criminal cases in the fullness of time.

All of that information was available to Nowrasteh, had he chosen to look. But doing so would not have advanced his agenda, which apparently is to do whatever is needed to set efforts at immigration enforcement and compliance as far back as possible.

Here's the thing: The United States, by virtue of its openness and its robust market economy, is a nation awash in a sea of fraud. There's mortgage loan fraud, student loan fraud, Social Security fraud, Medicare fraud, bank fraud, ad infinitum. You name it, fraud will be there, and that's true no matter what safeguards are put into place. For every security regimen one human crafts, there will be another human seeking to cheat it or defeat it. Does that mean we should scrap such systems? Put that way, it sounds foolish, doesn't it?

If Nowrasteh were to follow his train of thought to its logical conclusion, that's what he's suggesting. And yet I don't think he's ever suggested such a thing publicly, with the sole exception of immigration control systems such as E-Verify, which in turn suggests to me that there is a blind spot he needs to attend to. Intellectual honesty demands no less.