The din emanating from Congress these days is decidedly not in the Christmas spirit. The White House confrontation that pitted President Trump against his arch-enemies Senator Chuck Schumer and soon-to-be House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi stopped short of an all-out brawl, but offered zero encouragement that all parties were on the verge of a compromise on anything, least of all a Southwest border wall or legislative solutions to asylum loopholes.
With the December 21 deadline to fund the Department of Homeland Security looming, President Trump’s demand for $5 billion for wall construction versus the offer from Schumer and Pelosi to provide about $1.5 billion is the hang up. The $1.5 billion is like mere bus fare in today’s spend-crazy Congress.
Immigration analysts are puzzled by why President Trump insists on tackling the toughest item on his agenda, the wall, when other deterrents to illegal immigration are more immediately within reach, namely E-Verify.
President Trump’s signature issue has always been to build a wall to dramatically slow illegal immigration, and thus remove the jobs magnet from the unlawful entry equation. In 1981, the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy concluded all studies indicated that illegal aliens are attracted to this country by U.S. employment opportunities. Yet, nearly four decades later, Congress has consistently refused to act in American workers’ best interests. Once, not that long ago, even Schumer saw the E-Verify light. Schumer in 2009: “…a biometric-based employer verification system with tough enforcement and auditing is necessary to significantly diminish the job magnet that attracts illegal aliens to the United States…”
E-Verify has a disappointing history. Even though every congressional staffer is processed through E-Verify and all federal contractors are required to use it, stand-alone bills for the program that passed the House Judiciary Committee never reached the floor for a full vote. More than 750,000 employers use E-Verify at more than 2.4 million hiring sites.
Congress is also dismissive of other E-Verify benefits. Identity theft via falsified I-9 forms would be reduced, and unscrupulous employers would no longer have an unfair wage advantage over business owners and operators who are unfairly penalized when they hire and pay the going rate to citizens and lawfully present immigrants. In national polling among likely voters, a whopping 78 percent favor mandatory E-Verify.
The White House strategy behind selling E-Verify should be simple: U.S. reps and senators who don’t support E-Verify send the clear message to their constituents that they’re okay with illegal immigrants in the workplace, while millions of Americans are unemployed or under-employed.
A Pew Research Center report showed that illegal immigrants work in the construction, production, service and transportation industries, all areas in which many unemployed Americans would work. Schumer, Pelosi et alcan argue, persuasively to some, that a wall would be ineffective. But no one, whether he be President Trump’s friend or foe, can claim that E-Verify doesn’t protect American workers.
President Trump’s goal should be to back E-Verify critics into a corner to see what defense they could mount against preferring that jobs, especially low-skilled positions, go to illegal immigrants instead of America’s most vulnerable – minorities, the poor and the under-educated.