October 26, 2011
BETTER TO KILL THE ECONOMY THAN LIVE WITH COLOREDS:A Verification System for New Hires Backfires: Eligibility checks of workers under the government's E-Verify program are hurting small business (Nick Leiber, 10/25/11, Business Week)
Two years ago the Asheville (N.C.) rumor mill lit up with speculation that local flower wholesaler Van Wingerden International was hiring undocumented workers. To ensure that he take on only legal employees, co-owner Bert Lemkes enrolled the $20 million business in E-Verify, a federal program that matches data on new hires, such as Social Security numbers, with government records.
Lemkes says E-Verify has made it harder to find enough workers for his 37 acres of greenhouses, especially during spring growing season, when he employs up to 350 people. Though the U.S. unemployment rate is stalled above 9 percent, business owners such as Lemkes say few native-born workers are willing to do tough jobs, leading employers to hire immigrants. "Those who want to work fail to pass E-Verify, and those that pass fail to work," he says.
E-Verify can be used only to check immigration status after a worker is hired, not to screen job candidates or check on existing employees. Lemkes says he has had to fire more than 60 recent hires. Although E-Verify's proponents argue the unemployed will replace the undocumented, Lemkes says that hasn't happened. "Without comprehensive immigration reform, [verification requirements are] going to kill agriculture," he says.
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2011 7:15 AM