The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

By Mark Krikorian on May 3, 2010

The mass-immigration crowd's latest argument against the E-Verify system is that it's just not tough enough, dammit! A piece in the Washington Post over the weekend argued that I specifically, and restrictionists in general, back E-Verify precisely because it doesn't work perfectly — the intent being, if I can divine the true nature of the conspiracy, to prevent amnesty by preventing a solution to illegal immigration. Or, as the authors write:

William Riley, Former ICE Special Agent
in Charge, Discusses E-Verify:
View the Full Interview

The American public will not support a sensible legalization plan nor keep the front door open while the back door is off the hinges. That's why the anti-immigration lobbies are hypocritically insisting on an E-Verify system that does not work.

The reality is quite the opposite, I'm afraid. It's clear that the pro-amnesty side is promoting alternatives to E-Verify as a way of postponing for as long as possible any effective verification of legal status for employment. Whether it's the NEVA bill flacked by the WaPo op-ed authors, or the "Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment" (BELIEVE) System in Schumer's amnesty outline, they represent frantic efforts to prevent the electronic verification of legal status from becoming institutionalized in the absence of an amnesty.

In fact, as I wrote a couple months ago, the E-Verify system is working and steadily improving. And, to paraphrase a wise man, you do enforcement with the verification system you have, not the verification system you might want or wish to have at a later time. The central weakness of E-Verify is identity theft, which can be addressed if we had the will to do so — by flagging multiple uses of the same Social Security number, by aggressively pursuing mismatched information submitted to Social Security and the IRS by employers (W-2s with Social Security numbers that don't match the names), and by alerting the legitimate owners of Social Security information that has been stolen by illegal aliens. But, instead of taking these simple steps, that require no technological breakthroughs or further government intrusion into citizens' lives, the pro-amnesty crowd boasts of the superior virility of its proposals for a new national biometric ID card, which will magically be up and running in 18 months even though E-Verify has taken more than 10 years to get where it is now.