The government shutdown began with the president’s demand for border security money. But it’s also shut down E-Verify, a federal program that’s supposed to prevent immigrants from working illegally.
If U.S. employers want to check whether their prospective hires are eligible to work, they can’t. The E-Verify database is “currently unavailable due to a lapse in government appropriations,” according to a note on the government-run web site.
“There’s an irony there,” says Julie Pace, an attorney specializing in employment and immigration law at Cavanagh law firm in Phoenix. “We have an electronic wall for E-Verify that should be being used, that the government has not funded,” Pace said.
The E-Verify outage is just one way the government shutdown is having a negative impact on the U.S. immigration system.
Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border are working, but they won’t get paid until the shutdown ends. So are tens of thousands of other immigration agents in the Department of Homeland Security.
But the U.S. Customs and Border Protection training facility in West Virginia is closed during the shutdown, according to Sen. Joe Manchin.
And much of the nation’s immigration court system is closed, adding to a backlog of more than 800,000 cases and counting.
“We’ve never been in a situation that is so dire with regard to the backlog of immigration cases nationwide,” immigration judge Dana Leigh Marks told NPR’s All Things Considered. Marks is former president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, and one many judges who have been furloughed during the shutdown.
“When we have to shut down, those cases are delayed, sometimes for years, before we have space on our dockets to be able to reschedule them,” said Marks.
But immigration hardliners think it would be a mistake for the president to back down from his demands for a border wall now.
“There’s a bigger point that both the president and the Democrats are trying to make,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Krikorian is a big supporter of the E-Verify program, but he downplayed the impact of temporarily closing the web site.
“It unfortunate,” Krikorian said. “But it’s just part of the larger problem of having this kind of game of chicken over policy questions.”