Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Costco Adopts E-Verify: Good News, Bad News (Epoch Times)

Costco Adopts E-Verify: Good News, Bad News
By Evan Mantyk
Epoch Times Staff
Created: Jul 28, 2011

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) proudly announced on Tuesday that Costco Wholesale Corporation is voluntarily partnering with ICE to make sure that it doesn’t hire any undocumented, or illegal, immigrants.

The tone of the announcement was chipper (“I am pleased to welcome Costco,” begins the ICE agent), but the good news was strangely not publicized by Costco. There was no official announcement from the Issaquah, Wash.-based store known for providing its members with large quantities of goods at wholesale prices.

The silence from Costco is actually not so strange.

At the heart of the partnership, Costco has officially agreed to use E-Verify, a controversial Internet database that relies on the files of the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security to verify that new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States.

Proponents of E-Verify say that it simply enforces existing laws and helps keep jobs for Americans and legally working immigrants.

"This action sends a strong message to the millions of Americans who do business with Costco that the company places a priority on hiring and employing a legal workforce," said ICE agent Leigh Winchell in the announcement.

Meanwhile opponents of E-Verify say that it ends up costing Americans more money, both through tax dollars spent for the federal government to create and maintain E-Verify and to the businesses that use it.

A Bloomberg government report from earlier this year found that on top of $287 million in taxpayer money needed to fund E-Verify, the program currently costs small businesses with fewer than 500 workers about $2.6 billion a year. Companies have to train staff to use the system or pay private firms to use it for them.

E-Verify spreads
The use of E-Verify has been increasing since it was created in 1997. Now, over 250,000 American employers are estimated to voluntarily use E-Verify.

The database is already used by federal employers and companies doing contract work for the federal government are required to use it. Meanwhile, large companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill, were pushed into using it because they have faced government audits for hiring undocumented workers. There is no news saying that Costco was audited. What is certain is that they are not celebrating their embrace of E-Verify.

Last month, Republican lawmakers in Congress introduced legislation that would make E-Verify mandatory for all businesses in the United States. While the legislation is unlikely to get past the Democratic-controlled Senate or White House, the mere possibility of it shows the momentum that E-Verify seems to be gaining.

The nonpartisan Immigration Policy Center has warned that mandatory E-Verify without immigration reform is not a solution to the problem.

“Addressing the reality of a workforce that relies on unauthorized immigrants requires a more comprehensive package of reforms—including a legalization program that brings unauthorized workers out of the shadows, and the creation of sufficient legal visas for the immigrant workers America needs,” said the center on its website. “Mandatory E-Verify alone is likely to harm the economy and U.S. workers.”

The center gave the example of California, where an estimated 10 percent of the workforce is comprised of undocumented immigrants. Making E-Verify mandatory there may discourage Mexicans from illegally crossing the border but it would also result in 1.9 million people dropping out of the official workforce, resulting in a loss of approximately $177 million in income taxes, according to the center.

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