The hope of employment is one of the main reasons unauthorized migrants continue to enter the United States. In Texas, undocumented workers make up 8.5% of the state’s total labor force.
In addition to violating the law, employers who knowingly hire unauthorized migrants often take advantage of them by paying extremely low wages, refusing to pay, or even threatening to report them to ICE. Employers also typically use cheap labor provided by the undocumented workers to avoid adhering to labor laws that must be observed when employing American citizens and lawful residents.
Texas and other states have the ability to uphold the rule of law in this area, but they must exercise the political willpower to do so. They can do this by requiring employers throughout the state to use E-Verify. This online system is run by the federal government and verifies whether new hires are legally allowed to work in the United States “by electronically matching information provided by employees on the Form I-9…against records available to the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.”
Unauthorized migrants often pay substantial amounts of money for counterfeit documents to try and falsely prove their eligibility to work in America. E-Verify helps to detect these counterfeit documents so employers can be sure they are hiring people who are legally able to work in the United States.
Former House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, who is also a member of TPPF’s Border Security Coalition, is a long-time champion of expanding the use of E-Verify across Texas. When he was in office, Smith sponsored the Legal Workforce Act, which sought to expand E-Verify nationwide.
As Congressman Smith sees it, the top three benefits of E-Verify are its ease of use, its popularity among Americans and its ability to weaken the “magnet of job availability.” Smith notes an employer can, “check someone’s availability to work in the United States in about 30 seconds on an iPhone.” Smith also notes E-Verify’s popularity with Americans, pointing to polls that show it is supported by about three-quarters of the American people. This level of approval is rather unique, as Americans are very divided on many other immigration-related measures. Finally, Smith says that implementing E-Verify would reduce the incentive for illegal migrants to come to the United States because if “they are less likely to get jobs, they are less likely to enter the country illegally.”
Up until this year, Texas has only mandated the use of E-Verify when hiring state employees. Other states, like Florida, also require private sector employees to use the system. However, during the most recent Texas legislative session, SB 766 was unanimously approved by both chambers. Expected to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, this bill requires “sexually oriented businesses” such as strip clubs and massage parlors to use E-Verify in their hiring processes. State legislators fortunately came to a consensus on this front because this is an industry where unauthorized migrants are especially susceptible to becoming victims of sex trafficking.
Another E-Verify bill that unfortunately did not pass this last session was HB 1336. This bill would have made it mandatory for “state contractors and political subdivisions” throughout the state to use E-Verify. Though the bill should have easily passed, it is likely that special interest groups that do not really want to reduce the illegal jobs magnet through the expansion of E-Verify successfully lobbied against the measure. As Congressman Smith points out, “Special interest groups are exercising an influence beyond their numbers here. As I’ve said, it’s popular with the American people, but you do have special interest groups that really don’t want to reduce illegal immigration for their own reasons.”
While further expansion of E-Verify may face some opposition, evidence shows it is a system that works, with only a 1% error rate. This proves the program serves its purpose in deterring the employment of unauthorized migrants. E-Verify is effective in upholding the rule of law and should serve as an essential component of a sound national immigration system. It both prevents employers from taking advantage of the unauthorized workers and safeguards the jobs of American citizens and lawful residents. As Smith puts it, “Those who oppose E-Verify are putting themselves on the wrong side of American workers.”