Forget the fence — E-Verify shuts down illegal immigration's magnet
© Getty

Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush signed into law the Secure Fence Act, a bill requiring the kind of 700-mile partition on our southern border so controversially called for by Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance MORE.

ADVERTISEMENT
The mandate to build double-layered fencing, which was designed to stop not only illegal border-crossers on foot, but also drug-traffickers by car, passed breezily in both chambers and garnered a supportive vote from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance Melania Trump puzzles with 'I really don't care' jacket Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report MORE, then in her fifth year as New York’s junior senator.

Trump’s proposal, of course, shows we never actually got what our reps voted for, a scenario known all too well by immigration-control advocates.

While an advisor to former Mexican president Vicente Fox in the early 2000s, Fredo Arias-King led a delegation to discuss immigration policy with members of Congress; what he was told in closed-door exchanges has become lore in restrictionist circles.

Several dozen congressmen from either side of the aisle not only candidly voiced their absolute support for open-borders, but also admitted their active abuse of our immigration laws. “Often laughingly,” they told him, when forced to consider anti-immigration bills, they would simply “defang” or “gut” them “by neglecting to fund this program or tabling that provision” or simply deleting the measure entirely.

Such Janus-faced treatment of immigration policy appeared in the last presidential cycle when Mitt Romney’s campaign manager admitted he actually never supported the enforcement of our immigration laws.

In any case, a reaffirmation of the decade-old Secure Fence Act is likely not even necessary, at least when it comes to reasserting the dignity of the American working-class.

The biggest magnet for illegal immigration is employment: the “linchpin” to deterrence according to the former chair of the 1994 Commission on Immigration Reform, Barbara Jordan.

In Mexico, for instance, a relatively wealthy country compared to many other immigration-sources, average wages are just 10 percent of what they are in America. E-Verify would go farthest in securing this linchpin, certainly more so than a longer and higher fence.

Co-administered by DHS and the Social Security Administration, the ‘electronic verification’ system allows employers to verify that their potential employees are actually authorized to work in the country. The program’s not mandatory on a federal-basis, but around 600,000 employers (including federal agencies) use it across the 16 states that do require it. According to the E-Verify Employer Agent Alliance, 20 million cases were processed last fiscal year.

Where it’s been most comprehensive, the results have been striking.

When Arizona made E-Verify mandatory in 2008, it was so successful in pushing illegal aliens back home that the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora sent a delegation to Tucson to complain that they couldn’t handle the returning influx.

Their burden was likely vast, judging by the immediate benefits experienced by Arizona. The state’s public school system immediately began experiencing relief with a $50 million surplus suddenly appearing on the books that year. Apartment buildings reported alien-tenants moving out by the thousands (leading, no doubt, to more affordable rents for American residents).

And, although the law went into effect around the time of the financial crisis, when many illegal aliens likely had additional motivations to leave, researchers have found that Arizona had by far the largest decline (20 percent) in illegal-alien figures in the country, breaking the ceiling, no doubt, on long-depressed working-class wages in that state.

Other benefits of the program abound. Since E-Verify uses government data rather than documents provided by potential employees, it removes the possibility of Social Security and identity fraud, a chronically underreported crime that’s created a giant mafia-run black market and which disproportionately hurts American children.

The system also reduces the threat of discrimination against applicants, since the employer no longer has to decide whether the person’s eligible.

But like any law, a federal E-Verify mandate is good only to the extent it’s enforced.

Currently, it is illegal for employers to “knowingly hire” an illegal alien — a prohibition set out in 1986’s Immigration Reform Control Act (IRCA) and intended as a compromise to that law’s mass amnesty reprieve. But charges brought against the likely hundreds of thousands of illegal-alien employers are indeed rare.

A drywall company in Washington state recently became the first such defendant sentenced in the entire history of that state’s western district court. The attorney for the company pleaded with the judge that IRCA after all was a law “broken daily” and that his client’s “employment practices have been indistinguishable from thousands of other employers nationwide who have ignored IRCA at no peril.”

Returning the country to a nation of laws will require an amped up vigilance on the part of its citizenry. They’ll have to show the political elite that if they continue to ignore the American people, it will be at their peril, not America’s. 

Smith is an attorney in Washington, D.C.


The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.