Joe Guzzardi, 8/7/2018 [Archive]

Trump's Wall is the Wrong Priority

Trump's Wall is the Wrong Priority

By Joe Guzzardi


Once, August was a tranquil time on Capitol Hill. But that's no longer the case. After months of contentious wrangling over health care, taxes, tariffs, Supreme Court appointments and immigration, President Trump keeps the pot stirred. He recently announced, and then repeated, that he would have "no problem doing a [government] shutdown" this fall if he doesn't get his coveted Southwest border wall funded as well as other legal and illegal immigration reductions put into place.

Congressional approval for wall construction, or any other physical barrier along the Southwest border, is perhaps the most challenging and unwinnable fight that President Trump could pick. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan are cool to a shutdown which makes President Trump's goal virtually impossible to achieve.

President Trump's insistence on mounting a high-visibility campaign to build a wall baffles immigration analysts. They understandably wonder why the president doesn't instead engage in a more winnable battle and demand that Congress pass mandatory E-Verify.

With Democrats automatically against any proposal that the White House wants to advance, prevailing on E-Verify would be no cakewalk for the president. But a debate over the online program which confirms that all new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States puts opponents in the untenable position of defending illegally present foreign nationals getting American jobs instead of U.S. citizens or lawfully present residents. A 2016 Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends report found illegal immigrants are well represented in occupations other than farming, specifically in construction, production, the service industries, transportation and the civilian labor force.

Jobs and immigration rank high among the important issues that concern voters. E-Verify ensures that only authorized workers hold jobs, and at the same time it discourages illegal immigration. Persuasive evidence exists that E-Verify reduces illegal immigrants' job market presence, and therefore creates wider employment chances for legal workers and increases their wages. According to a May 2018 Washington Post story, and based on 2017 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas data, in Arizona, which pioneered mandatory E-Verify checks in 2008, the number of unauthorized workers dropped 33 percent below what had been projected without the requirement.

Numerous other benefits that E-Verify creates are, first, a wage boost for male Mexican immigrants who are naturalized citizens, and earnings increases among U.S.‐born Hispanic men. Second, if employers adopted mandatory E-Verify, theft and fraudulent use of Social Security numbers would be reduced. Third, immigration officials wouldn't have to separate families or spend money and valuable time deporting people. When foreign nationals can't get jobs, they'll move back home voluntarily.

Finally, the most effective deterrent to illegal immigrant employment is prosecuting criminal employers who hire them, an action which requires courage and a determination to end unlawful entry in an era when the Chamber of Commerce has undue influence on immigration policy. Anything less lets employers off the hook.

Candidate Trump talked up E-Verify. But despite the program's obvious benefits to American workers, President Trump rarely mentions it. When Congress reconvenes in September, mid-term election stumping begins in earnest, and promises to create jobs will be nonstop. Pro-American worker candidates should wholeheartedly endorse E-Verify.

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Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.

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