U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to reallocate resources to target businesses and prosecute employers that knowingly and routinely hire undocumented immigrants. The realigned effort, as described by ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan, pushes national enforcement of work authorization status checks through E-Verify.
The current implementation of E-Verify– a Social Security number database check– is mostly optional, and many states don’t require its use by private employers. On a national enforcement level, E-Verify is required only by employers contracting with the federal government. Only four states in the nation– Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina– require all public and private employers within their borders to use E-Verify, according to The Arizona Daily Sun.
Plenty of loopholes come with the E-Verify in the states with laws on the books. In South Carolina, for example, exemptions apply to traditional low-skill undocumented occupations– housekeepers, landscapers, farm workers, nannies and fishermen working in small crews.
In Texas, a state with one of the highest immigration populations in the country– both authorized and not– officials espouse a “determined use of technology” to ensure a documented workforce. Despite this, according to the Los Angeles Times, the state “has no one in charge of making agencies comply with the law.” State law only requires private employer use of E-Verify for organizations working with Texas agencies.
The spotty application and enforcement of E-Verify could well open a path for national legislation requiring its use, something Acting Director Homan called for earlier in October during a speech at The Heritage Foundation. Earlier this year, Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley introduced such a bill, though previous efforts of the kind failed.
What’s more, President Trump called for national E-Verify enforcement while campaigning for the office. In his budget request to Congress, the administration included a request for $131.5 million for E-Verify upgrades with an aim to take the program nationwide in three years.
Although the nationalist sentiment resonated widely with his populist base, the president’s own Republican Party holds contradictory immigration positions in that GOP officials emphasize enforcement against individuals but turn a blind eye in prosecuting employers tapping the undocumented workforce. Critics of the hypocrisy use the term “sanctuary business.”
Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, who sits on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee criticizes federal enforcement tendency to largely give a regulatory pass to businesses breaking immigration rules while going after individual workers.
“Why aren’t we going after employers who are knowingly cheating?” McCaskill asked at an immigration enforcement meeting in March. McCaskill called these businesses a “magnet” drawing foreign nationals over the border. “They are coming to find work.”
While Acting Director Homan estimates increased efforts of “four to five times” current business-side enforcement, members of the business community worry about facing hostile and expensive efforts to comply with federal enforcement.
Latino voter outreach organization Promise Arizona executive director Petra Falcon says immigrants filling manual labor jobs Americans are unwilling to take play an important role in the U.S. economy. She wants to see the government work with employers to find a tenable solution for all parties involved.
“We need to solve that problem,” says Falcon. “We know that they’re here, we’re inviting them to come and work in the fields, in construction, in this economy and yet they’re not invited to receive the benefits of doing that in this country.”