The first immigration-based legislative push by Congress members will be a mandate on employers for an expensive worksite enforcement program. The electronic program is called E-Verify, a system that allows employers to verify employees’ legal status before they are hired.
Senate and House Republicans of the 112th Congress are adamant about making immigration enforcement a priority over any immigration reform. They are calling for stricter worksite enforcement and also for wasting more resources on increased border security without any clear goal for what a secure border looks like or articulated plans to fix our flawed immigration system. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office confirmed that comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes our undocumented population would add $1.5 trillion in cumulative GDP to our nation’s economy over the next 10 years. According to this data, Republican priorities do not match with our nation’s top priorities of job creation and economic growth.
Currently, E-Verify is a voluntary program, with only 238,000 employers signed up to use it out of an estimated 7 million employers. Mandating the program will have a severe impact on companies. Honest and fair employers who have hired undocumented employees unknowingly could lose a significant portion of their staff and be charged with fines of up to $1 million. In a report from the Center on American Progress, authors Marshall Fitz and Angela Marie Kelley call E-Verify a “trifecta loser”:
“Taxpayers lose because more employers and workers will fuel the underground economy costing the country $17 billion. U.S. workers lose because exploitive employers have more leverage to depress wages. And the public at large loses because the problems related to unauthorized employment gets worse, not better.”
Mandating a program that still has many flaws in properly identifying citizens and non-citizens will not solve the problem of undocumented individuals in the workplace. Enforcement and regulation are important elements of the framework of immigration policy but they are not effective unless we have an immigration system that provides a path for legal entry and work authorization to undocumented workers. It is time that Congress enacts an immigration policy that works, is fair, and fits with our nation’s priorities. Enforcement-only strategies do not solve the problems. We need a comprehensive solution that combines employment verification with immigration reform.
Smarter Enforcement, More Targeted Measures by Marshall Fitz and Angela M. Kelley, Center for American Progress,