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Universal E-Verify Mandates Largely Effective in Reducing Unauthorized Immigrant Employment, According to Dallas Fed Special Report

For Immediate Release: September 8, 2017

DALLAS—E-Verify, a federal database, is largely achieving its goals of reducing the number of unauthorized immigrants living and working in states that require all employers to use it, according to a special report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

E-Verify allows employers to digitally check workers’ eligibility documents against federal records in real time. The federal government requires its own agencies and contractors to use the system, and some states require its use for public sector or government contractors. Eight states require practically all employers to use E-Verify.

In “Digital Enforcement: Effects of E-Verify on Unauthorized Immigrant Employment and Population,” Pia M. Orrenius, Dallas Fed vice president and senior economist, and Madeline Zavodny, professor of economics at the University of North Florida, look at the impact of those policies in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah. Tennessee adopted its universal E-Verify mandate relatively recently and isn’t included in the study.

“This study speaks to something very interesting in the immigration policy debate, which is namely, as a country, we’ve relied on border enforcement for decades to prevent undocumented immigration, but economists have been saying that probably interior enforcement, and in particular, worksite enforcement, is more effective,” Orrenius said in a video accompanying the report’s release.

The report looks at both changes in working-age population and employment of likely unauthorized immigrants using a method that compares what might have occurred in the state without the policy change with what actually occurred. It is the first study to apply this method to multiple states with similar E-Verify mandates.

The authors’ analysis finds that the number of unauthorized immigrants and/or unauthorized immigrant workers fell below what would have been expected without E-Verify in five states—Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi and Utah. There was no statistically discernable change in the number of likely unauthorized immigrants living or working in North Carolina and South Carolina, according to the report.

“The key takeaways from this study are that E-Verify, when it’s mandatory and all employers have to use it, can have very large deterrent effects on the employment of undocumented immigrants and possibly also on the immigration of undocumented immigrants, or illegal immigration,” Orrenius said.


Media contact:
Jennifer Chamberlain
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Phone: (214) 922-6748