Criticism of E-verify criticism criticized

Part 2: E-verify’s critique by Alex Nowrasteh (Cato Institute economist) critiqued by Jeremy Beck’s (NumbersUSA) whose critique is critiqued here by me. 

Alex Nowrasteh, economist for the Cato Institute, analyzed E-verify July 7, 2015, showing how and why it is a more serious threat to the liberties of citizens than to the liberties of undocumented immigrants. (See “Checking E-Verify”) Not only does it fail to stop “amnesty” or to reduce the undocumented immigrant population, but in the attempt, it creates a national database of names, addresses, SSN’s, and biometrics capable of bringing all our freedoms crashing down.

Jeremy Beck of NumbersUSA, on July 16, 2015, tried to refute Nowrasteh’s study, accusing it of relying on “faulty data”. (“E-Verify Opponent’s Faulty Data & Logic For Scrapping Immigration Enforcement”) Except that Beck didn’t exactly dispute Nowrasteh’s figures so much as he said they were not a problem.

This article is my criticism of Beck’s criticism of Nowrasteh’s criticism of E-verify. In other words, you are about to read criticism of E-verify criticism criticized. This article is a followup, part 2, to my article based on Nowrasteh’s article, titled “What if E-Verify costs us everything and can’t stop ‘amnesty’ anyway?” published February 27 at and February 28 at Talk2me.Saltshaker.US.

Little dispute about the facts. Beck complains that “the most provocative parts of the study are couched in predictions for the future, not analysis of the past or present.”

This is a mischaracterization, since Nowrasteh’s basis for concerns for the future was his analysis of present disasters, and he does not simplistically project current problems into the future but discusses factors that will affect that projection.

For an article attacking Nowrasteh’s “Faulty data and logic” (part of Beck’s headline), it is remarkable that Beck actually does not fault Nowrasteh’s data!

Harm to citizens admitted. He even accepts that when E-verify fails to confirm that citizens are citizens entitled to work, causing citizens to lose their jobs, correcting those E-verify errors in order to hopefully get their jobs back is a “tedious process” for citizens! But he says that “tedious process” is really a blessing for citizens who must suffer it!

These errors…are better corrected sooner rather than later lest the person encounter additional problems with their records down th [sic] road….. It may be a “tedious process” as Nowrasteh and Harper claim, but it is one that benefits the new hire.

Or by “new hire”, who benefits from a citizen losing his job, maybe Beck means the next citizen in line for that job after the “old hire” loses it thanks to E-verify!

National Tracking. What “additional problems with their records down the road” does Beck foresee, or that we should foresee? We are talking about hundreds of thousands of citizens who will lose their jobs because of government errors, and Beck thinks forcing those citizens to purify government tracking databases of every citizen will be better for citizens?

Worse than an SSA database with 255 million no-match errors would be a SSA database with zero errors. The fewer the errors in our government dossier, the fewer our freedoms. How has this become an obscure concept for this generation?

Not E-verify’s fault? Beck resents blame for E-verify when, he insists, the error is not that of E-verify but of the databases which E-verify uses!

These errors are with SSA and/or DHS – not E-Verify – …

So, what? We should just continue using E-verify, but stop letting E-verify access SSA and DHS records? Fine with me.

But E-verify errors are not all SSA and DHS errors. E-verify generates fresh new errors through the data entry errors of users. As for SSA and DHS errors, they are turned into serious problems by E-verify’s reliance on them.

Beck is unclear about this connection, but possibly the “benefit” he sees to losing your job over E-verify errors is that you don’t lose it to an immigrant.

IF citizens DO lose jobs… Beck acknowledges, in the following paragraph, that if citizens really do lose as many jobs because of E-verify that  Nowrasteh/Harper claim,  that would be a strong argument against E-verify:

The massive employment losses predicted in the [Nowrasteh/Harper] report would be another matter altogether. Barbara Jordan herself said that immigration policy – including workplace enforcement – “must protect U.S. workers against unfair competition from foreign workers, with an appropriately higher level of protection to the most vulnerable in our society.” ….the [authors’] claim that E-Verify would put Americans out of work strikes at the emotional heart of Jordan’s case for a mandatory workplace authorization system.

I said Beck did not dispute Nowrasteh’s data. He did affirm it, above. But he questions it, below. But the basis of his challenge can’t be taken seriously:

Nowrasteh and Harper base their 180,000-job-loss figure partly on the assumption that the error rate will go up as “new populations of workers” would be exposed to E-Verify but they do not point to a single example of a legal worker losing his or her job. Over one hundred million E-Verify cases have been processed since 2001. If Americans were going to lose their job by the dozens (much less tens of thousands), we would have heard about it by now. Their analysis offers no theory on why E-Verify remains so popular despite the growing calamities the authors claim American workers are experiencing.

Has Beck never been out? Stories have to be really outrageous to be “newsworthy”. Here’s a link to a few stories who made the grade, like the restaurant owner in Arizona who couldn’t legally hire his own daughter because of an E-verify mismatch.

Of course the Undocumented Economists at NumbersUSA write as if they have never heard of college-trained economists who produce peer-reviewed research, so if the Becks miss a few details in newspapers, they certainly aren’t going to learn about them in qualified studies!

Popularity? Popularity is Beck’s standard of whether a claim is true? Beck must believe Obama really is America’s savior.

“I bet I know how to fix those errors…” Beck faults Nowrasteh/Harper for knowing “‘only two ways’ to improve E-Verify’s performance”, and not the way Beck has figured out, which is that SSA should stop…

…refusing to notify the victims and employers of the [identity theft] criminals. The Social Security Administration could close the loophole almost entirely if it would simply notify workers with more than one employer making contributions to their social security account numbers and ask them to report if they were not actually working for each of those employers. SSA, however, has a policy of not informing the victims of identity theft.”

Usually a government policy like that has some rationale for it, but Beck does not link to it or explain it so we can judge whether it makes sense. Or whether it even exists. SSA does send out “no match” letters to employers whenever the SSN’s on employee wage reports (I-9’s) don’t match employees’ names according to SSA records. It isn’t possible for SSA to “inform the victims of identity theft” because all SSA knows is there is a no match, but identify theft is only one of several reasons for that:


What is an SSA No-Match Letter?

It is a written notice issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to an employer, usually in response to an employee wage report, advising that the name or Social Security number (SSN) reported by the employer for one or more employees does not “match” a name or SSN combination reflected in SSA’s records. The letter cautions employers against taking any adverse employment action against a referenced employee based solely on receipt of the letter, and explicitly states that the letter makes no statement about the referenced employee’s immigration status….

There are many reasons for a no-match notice, including but not limited to: (1) an unreported name change due to marriage, divorce or naturalization; (2) input errors by SSA staff; (3) reporting errors by an employer or employee; (4) identity theft; (5) errors in reporting proper culturally based hyphenated or multiple surnames; [for example, if you are from Sudan you have 5 names: yours, your father’s, your grandfather’s, your great grandfather’s, and your great great grandfather’s. Formal Hispanic names often list your three names followed by “de”, meaning “of”, and the names of your father and mother.] and (6) fraud. [A seventh reason is new workers giving their employers an easier to manage version or spelling of their foreign sounding, phonetically impossible name.]

How many errors are we talking about?! According to a successful 2007 lawsuit against the DHS, there is an “earnings suspense file” established by 20 C.F.R. 422.120 of mismatches. Then it had “255 million unmatched earnings records and that is growing at the rate of 8 to 11 million unmatched records per year.” 7.3 million were added in 2010. That’s twice as many records as the U.S. has workers. SSA assumes that one fourth of those mismatches are for citizens and legal immigrants. (70 million by now?)

Can you imagine the confusion if SSA tried to contact all those people, three quarters of whom may not even exist under the name in SSA records?

Blaming the critic for what he criticizes. But Beck can’t imagine a problem with his solution. Beck talks as if any problem is not with E-verify, but with Nowrasteh and Harper for not solving it!

Nowrasteh and Harper do not entertain this possibility. Nor do they offer any alternatives to E-Verify or approaches to combating illegal immigration.

Nowrasteh and Harper did explore many alternatives which have been proposed by Congress and others, and explained their systemic [built in, inescapable] problems.

Beck can’t accept the possibility that there may be no “solution” that takes fewer jobs from citizens than from immigrants, just because no one has been able to find one.

As for Beck’s “solution”, it  would merit a fuller response if it were developed; that is, if it discussed costs, projected effectiveness, and was based on research by relevant credentialed authorities. But all Beck gives us is a link to a description of reasons for E-verify errors:

William Riley, former ICE Assistant Special Agent in Charge, explains how data sharing between the Social Security Administration and E-Verify could cut down on identity theft.

But in the video, Riley isn’t proposing a new policy. He appears to be merely explaining the existing policy and how people get around it.

If SSA had no errors, it would be already bankrupt. There is an important reason people like Beck should want to “leave well enough alone”:  those “earning suspense files” don’t just contain mismatch records. They contain money – the money owed to all those 280 or so million partly real people when they retire. As long as they can’t be identified, we get to spend their money, and detonation of the Social Security time bomb is delayed a little. The more successful Beck is in tracking them down, the more fiscal danger we are in.

Beck next devolves to personal attacks, accusing Nowrasteh/Harper of failing to solve his problem because they are just against immigration enforcement. He quotes them where they give one of many reasons for the “weakness” of “enforcement efforts”. Beck takes their evidence of E-verify enforcement weaknesses for proof that they manipulated the evidence to make it look weak because of their desire for enforcement weaknesses.

Nowrasteh and Harper do not entertain this possibility [that Riley’s video offers a solution to E-verify’s errors]. Nor do they offer any alternatives to E-Verify or approaches to combating illegal immigration. Combating illegal immigration is not their goal. Nor is managing immigration to limit unfair competition with American workers….The authors reject E-Verify not because it isn’t good enough but because they reject the idea of most immigration restrictions and enforcement measures.

Well, Nowrasteh and Harper probably don’t think Riley’s “solution” to E-verify’s errors will work because Riley never offered one.

They probably didn’t “offer any alternatives to E-Verify” because every place they turned for an alternative – they really brainstormed that – they saw insurmountable obstacles.

“Combating illegal immigration is not their goal”, probably because they are economists, who have thoroughly studied the research of other economists, and have learned that all the evidence points to legalizing illegal immigration as being what is best for citizens.

They probably aren’t focused on “managing immigration to limit unfair competition with American workers” because they are economists, who know that all the published, qualified research of economists (who cared enough about correctly understanding economics to make that their major in college) unanimously establishes that immigrants do not take citizens’ jobs, but the opposite: especially in the “long run”, the more immigration there is, the more jobs there are for citizens, at higher wages, and the better jobs become for citizens. They know that it is only Undocumented Economists (armchair “economists” who never formally studied the subject but who call themselves “experts”) like Jeremy Beck and his father Roy at NumbersUSA, who claim the opposite of what all qualified research shows.

They do reject E-verify. “Because it isn’t good enough”? Because it takes as many jobs away from citizens as it does from “illegals”;  because it does not and cannot reduce the undocumented population; because if it could, that would destroy our economy the more; and because in gearing up to do what it promises but can never do, it is building the national tracking machinery to utterly destroy the last remnants of human freedom.

“Good enough”, indeed.

Beck’s concerns are accepted as perfectly logical to all who accept the premise of Undocumented Economists that immigrants take citizens’ jobs.

Of course, this alternate reality is the whole basis for E-verify in the first place.

Once one accepts the consensus of people who cared enough about understanding the economy to make that their major in college – that is, credentialed economists, the only purpose one sees for E-verify is as a political concession to restrictionists who refuse evidence. But it is a concession that will cost citizens as much freedom as it takes from immigrants.

(See section 1-G of Rector’s Undocumented Reckoning; also see “Immigrants did not take your job”. And if it gets back online, “Economists know immigrants don’t take citizens’ jobs”, and “Let the U.S. tank to save jobs for dropouts”.)

Nowrasteh/Harper’s study is very thorough and gives a clear view of E-verify’s operation, its problems, its negative incentives, and the practical impossibility, unacceptable cost, and danger to freedom. I hereby decree that it is required reading for anyone who wants to understand E-verify.

Their study focuses on E-verify’s impracticality in reaching its stated goal, without challenging its goal itself. It says only a little about its threat to our freedoms. Therefore, your required reading list needs to include Wired magazine,, the liberal lawyers at the ACLU, and the conservative lawyers at the Rutherford Institute. Also George Orwell’s 1984, and Revelation 13 about the Mark of the Beast. Learn about God’s view of governments able to track their citizens, by understanding Moses’ census in which everyone gave the same amount of money and only the money was counted, “as a ransom for your souls, that no pestilence fall upon you”, compared with David’s census in which 90,000 died from pestilence after his troops scoured the land presumably recording names and addresses.

Part 3 addresses some of these topics.

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