Immigration Reform

Immigration Reform

I understand that undocumented workers have technically broken the law. But I also know that the reason they came here are the same reasons my ancestors left their homes in Germany, Ireland, and Scotland to come to the United States. They came so that they and their families could have a better life. That is hard to fault.

If an undocumented worker has committed a felony or multiple misdemeanors since coming to the U.S., that person should be deported. However, if they have worked hard, paid taxes and stayed out of trouble then I would allow that person to come out of the shadows, pay a fine, and be given a path to citizenship.

As far as stopping this problem from continuing or from reoccurring it is really quite simple; undocumented workers are here for one reason: JOBS.  If there were no jobs, they would not come.  But, as long as an undocumented person can find a much better paying job in this country than (s)he can find in his/her own country neither a wall nor mass deportations will stop them. Apprehending and deporting undocumented workers and militarizing our southern border with a wall is “showy” but is really just a waste of time, effort, and resources.  If we really want to stop illegal immigration, we need to crack down on employers hiring undocumented workers, because jobs are the magnet drawing undocumented workers to the U.S. Unfortunately, targeting employers also has a negative effect on the economy because when employers cannot find undocumented workers to do the hard jobs that pay little the employers either do not get the work done or they have to pay more to get it done and, in either case, that translates into lower profits for the businesses and higher prices for all of us.

The tool to stop undocumented immigration already exists and it is called E-Verify. E-Verify is an online system that allows employers to check whether Social Security numbers are valid and, therefore, if an employee can work legally in the U.S. The problem is that right now E-Verify is largely voluntary. If E-Verify were mandated for every new hire, with substantial penalties for employers who do not comply, the word would soon get out that there was no work for undocumented workers so there would be no economic incentive to illegally cross the border.

Some people are against E-Verify because while in the vast majority of inquiries the E-Verify system works as it is supposed to; occasionally someone who is legally able to work in the U.S. may be improperly flagged. But, if they are truly legal, those problems can be rectified relatively quickly. If there is something suspicious about the worker’s information, E-Verify issues a tentative non-confirmation (TNC). That gives the worker and his tentative employer some time to contest the decision by identifying and correcting errors in the worker’s identification. During this time, the employer is not legally allowed to fire the employee and must keep him or her on the payroll until the worker’s identity problems are fixed. In those cases where a legal worker gets an erroneous TNC I would say that both the worker and their employer should be compensated for their trouble in correcting the error. Such a payment would help negate the inconvenience to both the legal worker and employer and would be much cheaper than building a wall.

In addition to E-Verify, we need a system to accommodate the need in this country for legal seasonal workers while at the same time treating those seasonal workers fairly and humanely. To me, the answer is expanding the seasonal worker program (SWP).

My vision of a SWP is that workers could get seasonal work permits, and employers could request to have specific workers return to work for them in subsequent years. Workers in the SWP would have a standard employment contract that has been negotiated between the source countries, employers, and the U.S. government to ensure fair treatment of the workers.

Bottom line, my focus is to not put a temporary Band-Aid on illegal immigration but to permanently solve the problem. To do that, all employers must only hire legal workers because otherwise as long as poverty and poor economic conditions exist for so many people outside of our borders and employment is possible in the U.S., we will have an illegal immigration problem. That is why we need to have a highly functional, easy to use, and mandatory E-Verify system.