Examiner Editorial: Applaud — and renew — a rare government program that works

When you do business on the taxpayers’ dime, you ought to be willing to prove you are using the money in legal ways.

That’s not a difficult concept. It’s why President Bush was right to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to use the E Verify electronic database to help determine if potential employees are legal. And it’s one of many good reasons why one of the first things the Senate should do when it finally returns from its ill-advised August recess is to pass a law extending the use of the database for another five years.

E-Verify is one of the few government systems that works exactly as intended by providing a valuable service that is easy to use and helps enforce important laws. At little more than the touch of a button, and for no cost to businesses, E-Verify allows employers to avoid hiring illegal immigrants by comparing employee names with Social Security numbers.

Now operated by the Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the Social Security Administration, E-Verify has been around since 1994. Some 69,000 businesses already participate in the voluntary program, and DHS says that authorization is returned instantly in 95 percent of the cases.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, explained it well: “The biggest incentive to illegal immigrants is the promise of employment in the United States. Enforcing our immigration laws means not only securing the border, but also eliminating the incentives that encourage illegal immigrants to come and stay in the U.S. E-Verify reduces the number of jobs for illegal immigrants by ensuring that only individuals authorized to work in the U.S. are hired.”

There are two issues at play right now concerning the program.

First is the need for Congress to reauthorize it before it expires in November. The House already did so by a vote of 407-2; now, the Senate needs to act.

Second is the executive order that makes the program mandatory, rather than voluntary, for any business receiving a federal contract. The order makes perfect sense: A contract paid with taxpayer dollars should carry with it the responsibility to obey the laws.

But we would urge Congress to go one step further: Lawmakers should include that requirement in the bill itself, so no future president can undo it on a whim.

“Illegal” really ought to mean illegal, and E-Verify helps make it so.

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