New analysis from the libertarian Cato Institute predicts disastrous consequences if E-Verify, an immigration enforcement program, is mandated for employers nationwide.

E-Verify nationwide could lead to more identity theft, make legal American workers unemployed and prompt the introduction of a nationwide identity card, according to the study.

The study, published Tuesday, was authored by Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at Cato, and Jim Harper, a senior fellow at Cato.

"If E-Verify is ever mandated nationally then it will fail — prompting politicians to call for more extreme immigration enforcement measures like a national biometric identity card," Nowrasteh told the Washington Examiner.

Conservatives are familiar with the failure of government programs, and E-Verify would be no different. The study points out that 0.3 percent of workers run through the system in a 2012 audit received false positives — American workers who were genuinely legal were marked as unauthorized by E-Verify. That error rate seems low, but it translates into 370,000 to 1.2 million legal American workers wrongly out of work if E-Verify were implemented nationwide.

With fear of false positives, it's not surprising that few employers are using E-Verify. "Four states have mandated E-Verify for all new hires, but employers and employees in these states are widely ignoring the mandate," the authors wrote. "If E-Verify compliance cannot be forced on the state level in Arizona or South Carolina, there is virtually no chance that it will be enforced more effectively across our large nation."

In Mississippi, only 49 percent of all new hires were run through the E-Verify system despite a universal mandate. In Arizona, 59 percent of new hires went through E-Verify, the highest rate of compliance.

Good jobs with relatively higher wages attract illegal immigrants to the United States. E-Verify is supposed to end that attraction by stopping employers from hiring illegal immigrants, its proponents argue. Instead, the system only pushes illegal immigrants looking for work deeper into the black market. That's why Nowrasteh and Harper predict higher rates of identity theft if E-Verify mandates spread.

Using Arizona as a case study, the authors show that employment for unauthorized Mexican immigrants rose after the state's E-Verify mandate took effect. Wages have dropped slightly. But wages in Arizona are still much higher than in Mexico. Unauthorized Mexican immigrants stand to gain a wage increase of up to 240 percent if they can find jobs in Arizona.

"Universally mandated E-Verify would not turn off the jobs magnet but instead would impose another unfunded regulatory mandate on American businesses while putting our privacy at serious risk," the authors conclude.

E-Verify uses the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to compare records with the Department of Homeland Security to confirm a potential employee's identity and legal eligibility to work in the U.S.