Making E-Verify Mandatory: Labor, Immigrant Rights Groups To Launch Spanish-Language Attack Ads

WASHINGTON -- Spanish-language ads will target Republican congressmen from California for their support of a federal employment eligibility program called E-Verify, an immigrant rights group and a labor union announced Tuesday.

America's Voice and the Service Employees International Union said they will run three Spanish-language ads aimed at Reps. Elton Gallegly and Dan Lungren as well as California Republicans in general. The ads will appear on radio stations in Sacramento, Santa Barbara and East San Gabriel Valley and in La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country.

"Once again, Republican Congressmen are promoting a terrible immigration plan that would harm Latino workers in California and across the country," the basic ad says, according to a translation provided by its sponsors.

A bill that would make use of E-Verify mandatory for all employers passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote last Wednesday, with support from Gallegly and Lungren. Currently, E-Verify is a voluntary Internet-based system to help employers confirm that individuals are authorized to work in the United States.

But the system has at times led to false negatives, indicating that legal workers are actually undocumented. This "database full of errors" could put Latinos and other minorities out of work, the ad charges -- a claim backed up by the Government Accountability Office and the Center for American Progress.

E-Verify errors can cost jobs for workers and waste time for employers, said Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasury of the Service Employees International Union, on a conference call announcing the ad buy.

"It is a bad bill for workers, it is bad for employers and it is bad for the economy," Medina added.

In its December 2010 report, the GAO found that E-Verify errors were still common, especially when it came to foreign-born workers, and could lead to "the appearance of discrimination." Naturalized citizens are 26 times more likely to be caught up in the system's errors than native-born Americans, according to a December 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security.

Supporters of the bill argue that these figures have improved and that errors will decrease even more as additional companies participate in the E-Verify program. But House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee blocked an amendment last week that would allow class-action lawsuits on behalf of workers who lose wages due to such errors.

One of the Spanish-language ads will hit Lungren in particular for pushing a provision that would allow the entry of 500,000 new agricultural guest workers, whose presence could lower wages and overall standards, as well as force undocumented farm workers even further underground.

"Jobs and workers will simply move into a cash economy, reducing tax revenues by, we estimate, more than $17 billion," said Arturo Rodriguez of the United Farmworkers of America on the conference call. "The guest worker programs that are being proposed will ... be utilized to undermine the jobs of domestic workers that are here today, ready to work and do those jobs."

The ads quote Reynaldo Arevalo, a citizen who has worked as a mushroom picker for more than 20 years. "This plan treats me and my co-workers like we’re disposable," he says. "We are human beings, and we should be treated as such."