Imagine a solution to a seemingly intractable problem that is both popular across the political spectrum and effective. It would make us safer, lower unemployment and protect wages. In honor of the start of baseball season, let’s call that solution a low and slow pitch just to the outside, begging to be knocked out of the park.
E-Verify is just such a solution. And Texas lawmakers now have the opportunity to strengthen this system by ensuring that state contractors and political subdivisions (such as cities, counties, schools and special districts) use it to ensure that the workers they hire are able to work in the U.S. legally. In short, House Bill 1336 is a base-clearing homerun waiting to happen.
E-Verify is a process that checks employees and employee applications to see if workers are eligible to work in the United States. Currently, Texas uses this process for state agencies and higher education. Other states, like Florida, have begun using E-Verify for all businesses in the state—including those in the private sector.
HB 1336 doesn’t go quite that far; it simply requires government in Texas to abide by its own rules. It’s authored by a Democrat, state Rep. Leo Pacheco of San Antonio, but it’s gaining support on both sides of the aisle. That’s no surprise; it enjoys broad public support, and it’s proven to be effective. It costs virtually nothing to contractors (they can check eligibility on a smartphone in minutes), and it protects jobs for U.S. citizens and lawful residents.
Let’s look at each of those points.
First, Americans overwhelmingly support E-Verify. A 2018 poll by Zogby and the Federation for American Immigration Reform shows that E-Verify “enjoys a lopsided 73.6% to 8.6% margin of support from all voters. Support cuts across all party and ethic/racial lines.” A clear majority of Democrats (54.6%) support making it mandatory for all employers (even the private sector), with 90.5% of Republicans agreeing, as well as 78.4% of independents.
And employers like E-Verify. It has high rates of satisfaction from businesses that use it, and 78% of employers who use E-Verify consider themselves small businesses.
What’s more, E-Verify is effective, in both lowering unemployment and decreasing illegal immigration. “All states that enacted or expanded E-Verify after 2008, save one, saw their unemployment rates drop, even when the national rate increased,” FAIR reported in 2017. “More impressively, 12 of the 15 states that passed new measures experienced a drop in unemployment larger than the national average.”
And E-Verify reduces illegal immigration by targeting the cause—the lure of jobs—rather than the symptom. As Progressives for Immigration Reform’s Joe Guzzardi pointed out in 2019, “Faced with an exorbitant fee for a smuggler to guide him through the desert, a migrant who knows he’ll be E-Verified and therefore unable to get a job is much less likely to come to the U.S.”
The cost to employers is negligible. Verification is quick and almost error-free. In the few cases in which a worker mistakenly receives a “temporary non-compliance” result, there’s an easy appeals process and fix. That’s why many in the private sector voluntarily use E-Verify—because it’s easy, accurate and the right thing to do.
My friends at the Texas Public Policy Foundation have been at the forefront of a growing movement to find state-level solutions to the national problem of illegal immigration. They support HB 1336 for the simple reason that evidence supports E-Verify. It works.
Critics will say that expanding E-Verify will make another problem worse—identity theft. Undocumented workers will simply steal the documents of those who are qualified, they say. But that’s not an argument against E-Verify; it’s an argument for better enforcement of identity theft laws. You don’t solve one crime by excusing another.
Rarely has the Texas Legislature been presented with such an elegant solution. Expanding E-Verify as outlined in HB 1336 would achieve goals that we can all agree upon. Lawmakers can and should blast this one into the bleachers.