My focus with immigration reform is to not put a temporary Band-Aid on it but to permanently fix it. My proposed solution has three parts; all three parts are integral and necessary to the solution. The first part deals with undocumented workers who are presently in the U.S., while the second and third parts deal with the future.
Part 1: Dealing with undocumented workers who are here now
If the undocumented worker has worked hard, paid taxes and stayed out of trouble then that person should be able to come out of the shadows, pay a modest fine, and be given a path to citizenship. However, when an undocumented worker has committed a felony or multiple misdemeanors since coming to the U.S., that person should be humanely deported.
Part 2: Dealing with undocumented workers in the future (via employers)
The majority of undocumented workers are here for one reason: JOBS. If there were no jobs, they would not come. But, as long as an undocumented worker can find a substantially 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. For the record I am adamantly opposed to a wall.
If we really want to stop undocumented workers in the future we need to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers. The tool to stop future undocumented immigration already exists and it is called E-Verify. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that confirms whether or not a person is authorized to work in the United States.
The problem is that right now E-Verify is largely voluntary. Making E-Verify mandatory for every new hire, with substantial financial penalties for employers who do not comply, would soon get the word out that there was no work for undocumented workers in the U.S. This will limit the economic incentive for undocumented workers to cross the border.
Part 3: Dealing with Undocumented Workers in the future (work visas)
In addition to a mandatory E-Verify, we need a system to accommodate the need for legal seasonal workers while at the same time treating those seasonal workers fairly and humanely. The answer is to fix the current H-2A program which allows agricultural employers to hire foreign guest workers on temporary work visas to fill seasonal jobs. While the H-2A program is a step in the right direction it has some fundamental flaws that need to be fixed.
Changes in the H-2A program must include:
- Being expanded to cover other non-agricultural jobs where there are not enough U.S. workers to meet the needs;
- Encouraging hiring U.S. workers first;
- Not driving down wages and/or working conditions of U.S. workers; and
- Requiring employers to pay Social Security and unemployment taxes on all workers’ wages: both U.S. and guest workers.