E-Verify absent from immigration policy talks
Nobody in the heated debate over border security and illegal immigration is talking about requiring businesses to check whether workers are in the country legally.
The omission belies broad agreement that mandatory use of E-Verify, the government’s online system to confirm workers’ legal status, would dramatically reduce illegal immigration by turning off America’s jobs magnet.
In the past, President Trump and Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer both advocated for mandatory E-Verify with tough enforcement measures to block immigrants from working in the U.S. illegally.
They said it would remove the incentive for the vast majority of border jumpers who come looking for work and potentially would encourage some to return to their home countries.
The White House and Mr. Schumer’s office refused to answer The Washington Times’ questions about it.
“Both sides like the status quo,” said Kevin Lynn, executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform.
He faulted Democrats for coddling immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to solidify support from Hispanic voters and Republicans for siding with businesses that want to exploit cheap labor.
Mr. Lynn’s group, which tailors its low-immigration message to Democrats, has all but abandoned efforts to pressure the party’s congressional leaders on mandatory E-Verify.
“Right now we’re not, only because the reception is so bad to it,” he said.
E-Verify has existed since 1996 and is mandatory in eight states. A 2016 study published in the IAZ Journal of Development and Migration found reduced numbers of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally in states with mandatory E-Verify.
“E-Verify is a much more efficient way to achieve the goals that are claimed for the border wall,” said Edwin Rubenstein, chief researcher for the nonpartisan Negative Population Growth.
An estimated 11.3 million immigrants live in the U.S. illegally with about 8 million working, accounting for about 5 percent of the workforce, according to a 2016 analysis by the Pew Research Center.
Compared to their share of the workforce, immigrants living in the U.S. illegally were overrepresented in the agriculture (17 percent) and construction (13 percent) sectors, and in the leisure and hospitality industry (9 percent), the center found.
The Chamber of Commerce dropped its opposition to E-Verify in 2013 but only with the stipulation that current employees be exempt.
The agriculture industry’s reliance on labor from immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has long kept farm state Republicans from backing mandatory E-Verify without a major expansion of guest worker programs.
The farm lobby was divided last year when mandatory E-Verify was included in a House GOP package of immigration reforms, the Securing America’s Future Act.
The bill was defeated 192-231, with 41 Republicans joining every Democrat in voting no.
While making his border security pitch Monday to the American Farm Bureau Foundation’s annual convention in New Orleans, Mr. Trump stressed that a border wall wouldn’t keep out seasonal workers.
“I’m going to make that easier for them to come in and to work the farms,” he said. “But we’re keeping the wrong ones out, OK?”
But he’s not talking about E-Verify the way he did on the 2016 campaign trail, when he pledged to “strengthen and expand” the program.
With Mr. Trump in the White House, the system has gotten short shrift. It was left out of Mr. Trump’s “four pillars” plan to combat illegal immigration.
Only a handful of the 565 companies in the Trump Organization, the president’s business empire, have signed up to use E-Verify, according to a Washington Times analysis.
At times, Democrats touted E-Verify as a solution.
Mr. Schumer last week listed E-Verify among the top measures for border security that he said were “ironically” suspended during the partial government shutdown.
“Border patrol agents are going without pay, E-Verify is off-line, immigration cases are on hold, new immigration judges are not being hired,” he said.
In 2009, Mr. Schumer said a “biometric-based employer verification system with tough enforcement and auditing is necessary to significantly diminish the job magnet that attracts illegal aliens to the United States.”