Getting to Work: Why Nobody Cares About E-Verify (And Why They Should)

35 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2012 Last revised: 19 Sep 2012

See all articles by Juliet P. Stumpf

Juliet P. Stumpf

Lewis & Clark College - Lewis & Clark Law School; University of Oxford - Border Criminologies; Lewis & Clark College Paul L Boley Library

Date Written: August 6, 2012


Employment is traditionally conceptualized as a private contract between employer and employee. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which prohibited employers from knowingly hiring employees not authorized to work and required employers to request evidence of work authorization, introduced the government into this private relationship as an immigration enforcer and recast the employer as an immigration law gatekeeper. Today, comprehensive immigration reform initiatives propose to implement a nationwide system called E-Verify through which employers check employees’ work authorization via on-line government databases. E-Verify unveils how the employment verification laws establish U.S. employees as a class circumscribed by government authorization to work. More than IRCA, it increases the presence of government in the establishment of the employment relationship for all employees, regardless of citizenship status. E-Verify represents a contemporary example of a recurring phenomenon in U.S. immigration law: the imposition of immigration enforcement costs on the U.S. population as a whole. In pursuit of enforcement goals, E-Verify impacts significant individual interests. It does so by creating a very small risk per individual of a harmful error, but aggregates that risk across the working population. That small population-wide risk is paired with greater risks that the harmful error will fall on a minority of the population, unsettling the workplace’s potential for democratic integration.

Keywords: immigration, employment, IRCA, E-Verify, verification, citizenship, enforcement, integration

JEL Classification: J61

Suggested Citation

Stumpf, Juliet P., Getting to Work: Why Nobody Cares About E-Verify (And Why They Should) (August 6, 2012). 2 UC Irvine Law Review 381 (2012), Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-22, Available at SSRN:

Juliet P. Stumpf (Contact Author)

Lewis & Clark College - Lewis & Clark Law School ( email )

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University of Oxford - Border Criminologies ( email )

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Lewis & Clark College Paul L Boley Library ( email )

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Portland, OR 97219
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