Letter to the Editor: Northwestern must halt use of E-Verify

To the Editor,

As my students and colleagues reel from last week’s election results and look to Northwestern University to become a sanctuary, we might pause to consider that right now NU gratuitously participates in a national worker ID program called “E-Verify.” While NU makes a great show of accepting undocumented U.S. residents, many pay large sums for tuition; meanwhile, the administration is obstructing them from holding any paid positions on campus, including as assistants for the Deportation Research Clinic.

NU’s policy is an outlier. The University of Chicago and other universities in the region and the country do not require their students and other workers to go through the E-Verify unless they are paid through specific contracts that require this. Indeed, only 7 percent of firms nationwide use E-verify. State legislatures, including Illinois in 2007, have voted to prohibit its use altogether until the federal government made specific improvements to the accuracy of the databases in an effort to decrease work authorization denials to those who are actually eligible to work in the U.S. (A federal court later ruled the Illinois law invalid.)

Why is NU doing this? When I was first hired and asked about NU’s participation in the program, which was just being rolled out in 2010, administrators told me it came from the top levels of the University. In other words, shut up and stop asking questions. Now that I know these top levels include current and past officers and directors of the military contractor General Dynamics (GD) — indeed, the Chair of NU’s Board, William Osborn, is a GD director — it makes sense. GD not only manages US Citizenship and Immigration Services technology operations for E-Verify and other databases, GD literally prints the Employment Authorization cards. Establishing E-Verify across the NU campus promotes a GD product line and the firm’s larger project of acclimating us to the national security state, even though the program is at odds with the values and well-being of the broader NU community and should be stopped immediately. Not only does E-Verify harm those who are undocumented, but also its high error rate exposes everyone to needless harm.

Morty, if you want to make NU safe for everyone, please immediately tell the DHS that NU is ending its participation in E-Verify.


Jacqueline Stevens
Professor, Political Science Department and Legal Studies, Director, Deportation Research Clinic, Buffett Institute for Global Studies