Most of the 15 states that have mandated use of the E-Verify system since financial collapse in 2008 have outpaced the rest of the nation in improvements to the unemployment rate, according to a study released Thursday.

The study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors tighter restrictions on immigration, used a less commonly cited unemployment statistic called U-6 that includes “marginally attached” workers and part-time workers who would like to work full-time.

“They essentially led the recovery the recession.”

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All but one of the 15 states experienced a drop in the unemployment rate one year after adopting the new E-Verify rules. Twelve of them experienced a drop in the unemployment rate that exceeded the national average. States that mandated E-Verify experienced the biggest decreases.

“They essentially led the recovery from the recession,” said Spencer Raley, a research associate for FAIR.

Created in 1996 and implemented in 1997, E-Verify assists employers in making sure that new hires are eligible to work in the United States. Advocates argue it could help prevent illegal immigration by making it harder for them to get jobs in America. But Congress never mandated the system, and it remains voluntary in most states.

The study highlights legal changes enacted in 15 states since the end of the Great Recession.

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For instance, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter in 2009 issued an executive order requiring all state agencies receiving funds are part of the federal stimulus program and their contractors and subcontractors to use the system. The same year, the legislature in Nebraska required E-Verify for all public employers and contractors.

[lz_table title=”E-Verify and Unemployment” source=”Federation for American Immigration Reform”]Change in unemployment rate*
United States,+.5%
United States,-.8%
United States,-1/2%
N. Carolina,-1.6%
S. Carolina,-1.8%
W. Virginia,-1.1%
United States,-.9%
*Change one year after E-Verify mandate took effect
A year later, the U-6 unemployment rate had dropped by .2 percent in Idaho and .4 percent in Nebraska. Meanwhile, the national rate rose by half a percentage point.

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Even after the jobs market began to recover and the unemployment rate started dropping nationally in 2010, it declined faster in most of the states that adopted E-Verify reforms. The exception was Tennessee, where the U-6 unemployment rate rose from 13.3 percent in 2012 — when the state began requiring it for all public employers and most private employers — to 14.7 percent in 2013.

Raley and Matthew O’Brien, FAIR’s director of research, acknowledged that determining cause and effect on something as complicated as the labor market is tricky. But Raley said it strongly disputes arguments raised by some critics of E-Verify that its use would lead to higher unemployment.

“We can pretty much say definitively it doesn’t have a negative impact,” he said.

Added O’Brien: “That’s really the only commonality in the labor markets of all those states,” he said.

E-Verify critics argue that it has an unacceptably high error rate that blocks eligible workers from employment and that even in states that have mandated it, compliance among businesses is low.

“Far from turning off the jobs magnet, E-Verify is an expensive, intrusive, and ineffective means of combating unauthorized immigration,” a 2015 Cato Institute report states. “The experiences of states that have mandated E-Verify reveal its high costs and ineffectiveness at suppressing unlawful immigration — results that should give  pause to E-Verify supporters.”

O’Brien said the error rate is low, about .3 percent. And he said his experience from his time at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was that many of the so-called false positives were people committing fraud who complained about their rejection.

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O’Brien said he believes E-Verify serves as a deterrent. Illegal immigrants are more likely to move to states that do not mandate the system, which helps drive the unemployment rate down.

Raley said that deterrent is more effective in a state where its use is mandatory, even with a relatively low compliance rate. He said it should be combined with other measures, such as aggressive work site enforcement and stiff fines against companies that break the rules.

“That would make things even better,” he said.