There are many thorny and complex issues in the immigration debate. In a lively Twitter discussion on Thursday, I was discussing work authorization, specifically E-Verify, the national electronic database whereby employers check prospective hires for work eligibility. Midway through this discussion, someone compared it to voter ID requirements, implying a consistent position would be to support both.
On its face this seems like a reasonable consideration. If you want to make sure people are legally authorized to vote, you should also want to make sure they are legally authorized to work, right? Upon futher reflection it becomes clear that these two measures aren’t really very similar, and arguments based on their comparison are dubious at best.
Voter ID is a requirement to access a public civic institution, but E-Verify is a mandate on private businesses. Employers have to screen every applicant for citizenship or work permit status before hiring them. One of the talking points of E-Verify opponents is that it makes every employer a de facto immigration officer and passes the buck of law enforcement to private entities. While actual border enforcement and maintenance of the E-Verify database would remain a federal responsibility, employers would face penalties, perhaps even worse than the unauthorized applicants themselves, for not using the system or violating it.