As immigration has become a hot topic in the last few years, immigration reform patriots have had an enormous amount of success in blocking bad legislation. In addition to defeating two "comprehensive immigration reform" bills, we've also defeated the DREAM Act and AgJobs on multiple occasions.
But stopping amnesty is only the first step. We also need to get all the illegals out of the country (to say nothing of stopping legal immigration). Though no national legislation has been passed, there has been some progress in cracking down and preventing employers from hiring illegal aliens through E-Verify—the internet-based system that allows employers to determine whether an employee is legal within seconds.
The core of illegal aliens come to this country for jobs, so if you cut off the jobs, they will leave. This is the cornerstone to the "attrition" strategy supported by most of the patriotic immigration reform movement.
Laws banning the employment of illegal aliens have been on the books for over twenty years. But they had barely been enforced until very recently. Part of the problem has been intentional neglect on the part of the federal government (G.W. Bush, President). But here are legitimate logistical difficulties in stopping illegal immigration.
Illegal aliens can easily acquire fake IDs. It is up to the employers to discern whether or not the IDs are legitimate. To make matters worse, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which made it illegal to hire illegal aliens, also created anti-discrimination laws that banned—among other things—"Document abuse discrimination". Employers can now be sued for overly scrutinizing the documents of Hispanics.
E-verify takes care of these problems by immediately checking if the Social Security numbers supplied by an employee or applicant.
Some libertarians will object to this on privacy grounds. But it is much less invasive than any other alternative. The Social Security numbers are only matched through the E-verify system and will not be shared with any other federal agency or other third party. Furthermore, this will obviate the perceived need by many for a National ID Card.
E-Verify was started in 1997. But it is only recent years that it has actually been implemented on a large scale. Arizona, South Carolina, Mississippi, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Utah have all passed legislation requiring some or all businesses to use it. Heath Shuler's SAVE Act, currently perhaps the most viable immigration restriction act, would mandate the program nationwide. In the pigs flying category: President Bush recently signed an executive order requiring all federal contractors to use the system.
Arizona has the most stringent laws, under which all employers are required to use the system. Before the law even went in effect, there were headlines like "Crackdown has illegal immigrants leaving Arizona." [The Arizona Republic, December 19, 2007]. The law has been in effect since March. All sides admit that there has been a dramatic exodus of illegals out of the state. A recent PBS report interviewed State Rep Russell Pearce who authored the law, and various businesses and local immigrants. Here are some highlights:
Pearce: I have not seen any actual caravans, but we've been told they're leaving by the droves. We've seen businesses shut down. We've seen businesses that cater to illegal aliens impacted. And I've been told that, when the school year is out, you're going to see thousands more leave.
Alberto Games, Restaurant Manager (through translator):
Our customers are mostly Mexicans. And Mexicans here
in Phoenix, most of them are illegal. So if you're
opening up a business to serve that community, you're
going to be limited.
[Narrator]: But at one Phoenix institution servicing immigrants, business is up. At the Mexican consulate, Mexicans moving back across the border come to get their papers in order.
What is their objection? As usual, " racial profiling." According to MALDEF's Kristina Campbell, "This law will encourage employers to avoid hiring workers who they perceive to be foreign-born because of an accent or the color of their skin and lead to unfair firing of eligible workers." [ACLU Press Release, February 7, 2008]
Of course any law that deals with illegal aliens encourages "profiling" of Hispanics—because most illegal aliens are Hispanics. What E-Verify does is make compliance easier for employers to screen everyone and thus prevents "profiling".
The other objection: E-Verify pre-empts federal law—although the E-Verify program was created by the Federal Government in the first place.
The Arizona law was upheld in February, but last week the notoriously Open Borders federal 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals heard the case. At this point, all we can do is wait and see.
The E-Verify program will sunset at the end of November. If it is not reauthorized, all of the laws and edicts will become meaningless. Ken Calvert and Chuck Grassley have introduced legislation in the House and Senate respectively to renew the program. But there is significant opposition.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords [D-AZ, ABI Rating D+] has introduced an alternative system called Secure Electronic Employment Verification System in a separate bill called the New Employee Verification Act [NEVA] that purports to solve the problem of illegal immigration. There are many problems with NEVA, but the two biggest are that it only applies to new employees—and that it would explicitly void every single state law that deals with hiring illegal aliens.
It should force the federal government to act against the invasion.
Instead, it is showing ominous signs of acting against the states.
Naïve question: whose side is Washington on?
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is the founder of the Robert A Taft Club and the executive director of the The American Cause and Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be seen here. The views he expresses are his own.