Arkansas Republicans Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman both publicly supported nationwide, mandatory implementation of E-Verify in interviews released Friday.
Speaking to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, both senators argued that the system would do a great deal to discourage illegal immigration by punishing those who employ illegal immigrants.
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"If we had a nationwide mandatory E-Verify [system], the word would get out pretty quickly to those countries whose citizens right now are streaming across our border," Cotton said. "If they learn in their home countries that every job they pursue, there's going to be an effective and immediate electronic verification system, they'll be less likely to cheat the system and come here in the first place; more likely to do the right thing and … seek to come here either on a visa or to get a green card."
E-Verify is, according to its website, "a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States." Specifically, the system allows employers to quickly match a would-be employee's I-9 form against citizenship and work eligibility data from the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.
The program was created in 1996, as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. It has grown in popularity since then, from just 1,000 employers using it in 2001 to 745,000 in 2017. Use is optional in Arkansas and the majority of other states, but mandatory for federal contractors.
The program has been shown to work, too. A 2016 study used standard techniques for identifying illegal residents to determine that "having an E-Verify law reduces the number of less-educated prime-age immigrants from Mexico and Central America—immigrants who are likely to be unauthorized—living in a state."
Cotton claimed in the interview with the ADG that the program is both inexpensive and has a "extremely low" error rate.
"If people aren't hiring the people that are here illegally then they're not going to come because the work's not here," Boozman said. "A simple system like E-Verify with minimal hassle for the employer would be, I think, an excellent step forward."
Both Cotton and Boozman also back additional funding for building a border wall, agreeing with President Donald Trump's claim that the southwestern border is in "crisis."