When you look at the current battle in Congress over illegal immigration and border security, you can’t help but wonder if a majority of our elected lawmakers are allergic to common sense. While the battle over the border wall continues, the federal government neglects other critical aspects of the issue.
…many businesses are employing individuals who do not belong in the country.
Physical barriers and better border security are undoubtedly important, but a significant issue that receives too little discussion is the reason people enter the country illegally in the first place. These individuals flout U.S. immigration laws because they are looking for work. So wouldn’t it make sense to remove that incentive for breaking the law?
The E-Verify program helps employers determine an applicant’s eligibility for employment in the United States. With a 99% accuracy rate, it prevents illegal immigrants from obtaining jobs. Currently, 20 states require companies to use the program to prevent illegal aliens from getting employment. But why not make the program mandatory in all 50 states?
What’s Wrong With E-Verify?
Recently, one of President Trump’s golf clubs came under scrutiny when it was discovered to have been employing illegal immigrants. The same has occurred at other properties, and some Democratic lawmakers took advantage of this story and invited the fired employees to the State of the Union address.
When the news broke about the Trump organization, Eric Trump announced that it would be “instituting E-Verify on all of our properties as soon as possible.” Luckily for the Trump Organization — and many other companies nationwide — the states in which the establishments are located are not legally required to use the E-Verify program.
The fact that illegal immigration remains such a huge problem in the United States demonstrates that many businesses are employing individuals who do not belong in the country. While some of these organizations are unwittingly hiring illegal immigrants, others are deliberately taking advantage of the lower wages such individuals will accept.
To avoid another government shutdown, House and Senate negotiators recently reached an “agreement in principle” on border security — a deal that still needs to pass both chambers and one with which President Trump has said he isn’t happy. Perhaps mandating the use of E-Verify for all U.S. employers could become common ground for both sides, considering the fact that 78% of Americans support such a move.
Does Either Party Want to Address Illegal Immigration?
Democrats have opposed the implementation of mandatory E-Verify for every state. While there are likely several reasons why they would oppose such a policy, one of the arguments they give is that the system is not perfect. That might sound odd given that a lack of perfection has never made anyone on the left reluctant to embrace a government program, but, even so, their argument is flawed.
E-Verify has identified incorrectly 1% of eligible applicants as ineligible due to certain flaws in the system. But the number of workers affected is minuscule compared to the program’s success rate. Moreover, those erroneously labeled ineligible can appeal the program’s results.
Republicans have been divided on the issue, with some opposing such a measure because of the potential impact on businesses that would no longer benefit from paying lower wages. More libertarian-leaning lawmakers view foreign workers as an integral component of the free market. But the primary force that divides the party on E-Verify is the agriculture lobby, which advocates on behalf of companies that employ a significant number of illegals.
Last year, House members from both parties introduced a bill known as the AG and Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 6417) that would require E-Verify use nationwide. As a concession, the proposal would have created an H-2C visa program that would guarantee a minimum of 1.2 million guest workers for the industry. Even further, it would allow a large number of illegal immigrants to qualify for the program.
Apparently, this bill did not go far enough for the agriculture lobby, which scuttled the measure, even though 200 agricultural interest groups supported the proposed legislation. Western Growers, an association that represents produce growers, was instrumental in tanking the proposal.
Tom Nassif, the organization’s president, argued that the bill would not work for California growers, who rely on illegal immigrant labor. “The bill would require all of those workers — and we could have 400,000 to 500,000 here in California — to stand up and say we are here illegally, so deport my spouse and convert me to a guest worker,” he said. “Some of them have been here for decades. Our growers tell us that workers tell them they would rather continue living in the shadows than convert to H-2C. So we can’t support a bill that would cause us to lose our workforce.”
Is E-Verify the Solution?
Several members of Congress have proposed solutions to the illegal immigration problem. Many support the building of a physical barrier along the southern border. Others, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have put forth more creative ideas, such as using seized assets of Mexican drug traffickers to fund construction of the wall. But it appears that many of our government officials are missing the point.
Border walls are an effective method of preventing people from crossing the border illegally. But most illegals do not enter the country by the southern border. At least 60% of illegal aliens gained entry legally by obtaining visas and then remaining in the nation after their visas expired.
If the federal government truly wishes to decrease the number of illegal immigrants in the United States, it needs to take a more holistic approach to the problem. Physical barriers and more border security are essential. But the most effective way to decrease illegal immigration is to implement solutions that discourage these individuals from breaking the law in the first place.
If they are denied employment and welfare programs, it makes more sense for them to go through the legal process to get into the United States. A comprehensive solution to the immigration issue must not rely solely on physical barriers but include psychological deterrents. Mandatory E-Verify would be one of the most potent weapons in the battle against illegal immigration, but, unfortunately, many of our leaders seem to be more focused on posturing rather than providing actual remedies.