Is there any way to break the policy logjam on immigration?
Most Republicans favor tougher border security measures, while Democrats tend to support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Many progressives, aghast at the separation of parents and children at the border, even want to “abolish ICE” – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
But conservatives and liberals do agree on one thing: The need to crack down on unscrupulous business owners who hire and exploit illegal immigrants. Fifty-six percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Independents, and 81 percent of Republicans support fining such employers, according to a recent poll from NPR-Ipsos.
There’s already a free online system designed to prevent businesses from hiring illegal workers: It’s called “E-Verify.” Making it mandatory for all employers would humanely deter people from illegally coming to America in search of work, without the need for a border wall or family separations.
E-Verify is easy to use. Employers simply plug in a new hire’s name, date of birth, and Social Security number. The system checks that data against records held by the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security and determines if the person is authorized to work in the United States.
About a quarter of a million businesses already use E-Verify. And some states – including Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Arizona – require all private and government employers to use E-Verify on prospective employees.
Mandatory E-Verify could dramatically curb illegal immigration. In 2016, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and Agnes Scott College analyzed several state-level E-Verify mandates. The study suggested that “having an E-Verify law reduces the number of less-educated prime-age immigrants from Mexico and Central America – immigrants who are likely to be unauthorized – living in a state.”
By shutting off the jobs magnet that attracts illegal workers, E-Verify would boost the pay of less-skilled Americans and legal immigrants.
The House of Representatives was poised to consider an E-Verify bill this summer. But agricultural corporations’ lobbyists on Capitol Hill distorted the legislation by adding provisions that would massively expand guest-worker programs. Bringing in millions more unskilled workers would cancel out the wage gains American workers would enjoy under a mandatory E-Verify system.
The economy isn’t as strong as it appears. Although the official unemployment rate is hovering around 4 percent, that figure doesn’t include people who want full-time jobs but can only find part-time work. Nor does it factor in people who have become so discouraged that they’ve given up looking for jobs. If the government counted those folks, the unemployment rate would be about 8 percent.
In other words, roughly 13 million Americans still can’t find full-time work, in part because employers have chosen to hire illegal laborers who accept lower wages.
Universal E-Verify would make it much easier to identify and prosecute businesses abusing immigration laws. It’s the cheapest and most effective way to hold corporations accountable and open up job opportunities for Americans and legal immigrants.
Stacy Washington is a decorated Air Force veteran, an Emmy nominated TV personality, and the host of the nationally syndicated radio program “Stacy on the Right.” This piece originally ran in Newsweek.