Congress Debates Amnesty as White House Quiet on E-Verify

June 12, 2018 | Joe Guzzardi

The big week on Capitol Hill that featured a much ballyhooed immigration meeting between party leaders came and went with little change in the status quo.

Democrats and some Republicans hoped to settle the controversial discharge petition issue which would allow a floor vote on one of several immigration bills floating throughout the House that includes amnesty for at least 3 million illegal immigrants. Once chain migration is factored into the equation, the original 3 million could petition another 12 million foreign nationals to join them. All 15 million would be lifetime work authorized.

Discharge petitions are obscure, and rarely, despite the Chamber of Commerce’s whole-hearted support, succeed. The GOP signatories include long-time amnesty advocates from immigration-heavy states, including California, Florida, New York and Texas.

But if Congress ever wonders why its satisfaction rating among its constituents is consistently low, the discharge petition effort clarifies it. Although immigration talks have taken up nearly all the air in last week’s congressional sessions and dominated the headlines, amnesty has, at best, only a slim chance.

Assuming that the discharge petition succeeds, and that the House subsequently passes an amnesty bill, last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly announced that immigration would not be on the Senate’s emergency August calendar. Earlier, in May, McConnell promised that any immigration legislation that President Trump isn’t behind won’t come to the floor. And even if McConnell goes squishy on his two promises, President Trump is 99 percent certain to veto a bill that doesn’t end chain migration and include border wall funding.

The GOP’s pro-discharge U.S. representatives hope to show their district-wide, cheap labor-dependent businesses that they’ve done all they can to keep the flow of low-skilled workers coming, kind of a “Hey, don’t look at me, I tried. I’ve earned your vote.”

But no one, including President Trump, is talking about the most important chip in the immigration debate’s high stakes poker game – E-Verify. President Trump’s failure to firmly endorse E-Verify energizes congressional cheap labor advocates, and encourages businesses large and small to continue hiring illegal immigrants.

For two decades, Congress has shamefully blocked E-Verify, originally known as the Basic Pilot Program, even though its success in states where it’s mandatory is well documented. House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan steadfastly refused to call a full floor vote on E-Verify after the Judiciary Committee passed it in two different Congresses. Assuming that economic motives drive most illegal immigration, and that U.S. jobs are the magnet, E-Verify is a simple and effective method to dissuade illegal entry.

Talk of separating families and labor shortage crocodile tears would end. Families could remain unified in their native countries, and with the cheap labor pool dried up American employers would be forced – sooner or later – to raise wages. With E-Verify in place, Immigration and Customs Enforcement could focus on identifying illegal employers, and referring them to federal prosecutors.

Few question E-Verify’s efficiency at deterring illegal hires. A 2017 Carnegie Mellon University study found that Arizona’s E-Verify law “decreased emigration from and increased return migration to Mexican source regions with strong initial ties to Arizona.” During the period studied, CMU calculated that return migration rates quadrupled from pre-E-Verify levels.

The report’s authors also discovered that mandatory, nationwide E-Verify would, over a decade, cost about $1.3 billion as opposed to President Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexico-U.S. border with an estimated $21 billion outlay.

Unlike some other immigration programs, E-Verify is cut and dry. Those in Congress who refuse to include E-Verify in their bills prefer jobs to go to illegally present foreign nationals, and not to American citizens. Incumbents and mid-term challengers who don’t include E-Verify in their platforms could have a disappointing November.

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