Mitt Romney coined the term “self-deportation” in 2012 to describe his plan for stemming the flood of illegal immigrants pouring over the border. If illegals couldn’t get jobs here because they have no documentation, they would decide to go home.
If a scheme called “E-Verify,” requiring employers to verify the immigration status of job applicants, was widely used the authorities could test the Romney solution. Twenty states now require the use of E-Verify by both public and private employers. But with the unemployment rate at a 17-year low, and labor shortages in the agriculture, hospitality and construction industries, adoption of a federal E-Verify mandate remains in limbo.
An ABC News-Washington Post Poll finds that 79 percent of American respondents favor requiring employers to use E-Verify, the database administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and a new survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas shows that E-Verify works in five states of the Dallas region where it is required. “The key takeaways from this study,” says Pia Orrenius, the senior economist of the Dallas bank, “are that E-Verify, when mandatory and all employers have to use it, can have very large deterrent effects on the employment of undocumented immigrants, and possibly also on the immigration of undocumented immigrants, or illegal immigration.”
Both Democratic and Republican defenders of the status quo, which obviously isn’t working, argue that illegal aliens will do the jobs that Americans won’t. But this suggests they’re exploited and easily abused by employers who regard them merely as a source of cheap labor.
If E-Verify or something like it were fully embraced nationwide, simple economics suggests that would drive up wages to the point where Americans would take those jobs. That should appeal to Democrats and the unions. An expanded agricultural guest-worker program could address lingering labor shortages after the adoption of mandatory nationwide E-Verify.
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