U. Chicago's Cochrane: E-Verify Represents Bureaucratic Overreach

Friday, 02 Aug 2013 01:20 PM

By Dan Weil

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The E-Verify provision of the Senate immigration bill gives the government way too much power over Americans' employment and can easily lead to abuse, says John Cochrane, a finance professor at the University of Chicago business school.

"E-Verify is the real monster," he writes in The Wall Street Journal. "If this part of the bill passes, all employers will be forced to use the government-run, web-based system that checks potential employees' immigration status. That means every American will have to obtain the federal government's prior approval in order to earn a living."

The program can be easily expanded, Cochrane warns.

"Suppose that someone convicted of viewing child pornography is found teaching. There's a media hoopla. The government has this pre-employment check system. Surely we should link E-Verify to the criminal records of pedophiles?" he writes.

"And why not all criminal records? We don't want alcoholic airline pilots, disbarred doctors, fraudster bankers and so on sneaking through."

Bureaucrats will be tempted to use E-Verify as a means to enforce hundreds of other employment laws and regulations, Cochrane says.

"In the age of big data, the government can easily E-Verify age, union membership, education, employment history, and whether you've paid income taxes and signed up for health insurance," he states.

E-Verify backers have an unrealistic notion about how it will be used, Cochrane continues, noting that they "imagine some world in which a super-accurate government database tracks each person's legal status, and automatically enforces straightforward rules."

"Maybe on Mars," he adds. "In our world, immigration and employment law is a complex mess, and our government's web-site-building capacity (see under: 'health-insurance exchanges') can't possibly handle millions of people who are trying to evade the law. Permission to work inevitably will rely at least in part on the judgment calls of an army of bureaucrats."

And that leads to political abuse, Cochrane says.

"Soon, attending a meeting of a group that is a bit too enthusiastic about the Constitution or gun rights — or being arrested at an Occupy Wall Street rally — could well set off a 'check this person' when he applies for a job," Cochrane says.

"If the government can stop you from working, how can you be free to speak out in opposition?"

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