Critics of E-Verify are increasingly citing a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that said as many as half of illegal alien workers escape detection by the system. This they claim demonstrates that E-Verify is unreliable and should not be expanded as a requirement for all employers. That claim is hugely misleading.

The E-Verify system is nearly 100 percent accurate. 98.3 percent of employees are automatically confirmed as authorized to work either instantly or within 24 hours, requiring no employee or employer action. Of the other 1.7 percent who are not automatically confirmed, only a few (0.3%) are subsequently found to be authorized to work but first had to correct either the government’s or the employer’s records. The others did not contest the finding that they were not authorized to work. The half who supposedly are incorrectly found authorized, therefore, would represent less than 1.5 percent of the inquiries.

It is clear that some illegal alien workers escape detection by the E-Verify system, but no one knows how many. The false confirmation percentage cited in the GAO report was an estimate by a government contractor. Since that GAO report was issued, Richard Stana, the GAO director for homeland security and justice, reported to Congress in February 2011, “USCIS has reduced the incidence of … E-Verify’s vulnerability to fraud.” And further progress in reducing false confirmations will be made when E-Verify is made a national mandatory system for all employers because the proposed legislation requires SSA to report evidence of false use of SSNs.

The irony in the claim of unreliability of the E-Verify system is that it is not being made as an argument for improving the system. It is cynically being made by defenders of illegal aliens in an effort to prevent E-Verify from being expanded nationwide. They are trying to preserve job opportunities for illegal workers.