(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) All attention has shifted to border security and the visa process in America’s immigration debate. This has left untouched what for many years was the central policy debate surrounding immigration: worksite enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
Jerry Kammer, senior research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, makes this argument in his new book, “What Happened to Worksite Enforcement? A Cautionary Tale of Failed Immigration Reform,” which was released in September. As a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Kammer’s writing reads like a newspaper story.
Kammer says immigration authorities have failed to properly enforce the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). From the Reagan years to the Obama administration, he says there has never been a serious crackdown on hiring illegal workers, which he claims has allowed the job magnet that drives illegal immigration.
Kammer gives two reasons for the country’s inability to prevent illegal aliens from obtaining jobs. He says an alliance of pro-immigration, pro-amnesty constituencies halt legislation that would require all American workers to prove their legal status.
“Congress had bowed to the demands of the powerful left-right coalition that was led by business and ethnic groups, but also included church groups, immigration lawyers, business libertarians, and civil libertarians who warned that proposals for securer identifiers would foster a big-government assault against property rights,” he writes.
Out of IRCA the I-9 process was born. Kammer argues this process never slowed illegal employment because it is slow and easy to evade.
During the Reagan years, employers could present 29 unique documents that could prove worker verification. Many times illegal aliens bought fake documents. Employers had plausible deniability if the documents, such as Social Security cards, immigration documents, and birth certificates, looked legitimate.
Politicians had no incentive to crack down on the blatant fraud, Kammer writes. Pro-business Republicans do not want to enforce immigration laws and upset businesses that hired illegal aliens. Pro-diversity Democrats do not want to appear mean-spirited and upset illegal aliens, who vote heavily Democratic.
According to Kammer, worksite enforcement has been problematic from an on-the-ground standpoint, as well. The federal agents at Immigration and Naturalization Services – and later at Immigration and Customs Enforcement – never had the desire to crackdown on workplaces that hired illegal immigrants.
Kammer says agents felt no gratification in arresting groups of dishwashers or factory workers. Instead they wanted to pursue drug dealers and human traffickers, so they could feel they were making the country safer.
This combination of bipartisan distaste for workplace enforcement and federal employees’ unwillingness to do the work has left no one fighting for the working man’s wages, which illegal immigration has suppressed, according to Kammer.
He writes that Republicans offered tighter border security to look tougher on immigration, even though they had no intention to truly eliminate illegal immigration. This includes proposals like the Mexican border wall, increased ICE agents on the border, and the use of more sophisticated technology, such as drones. While Kammer indicates support for some increased border security measures, he views them as a distraction from a more fundamental problem.
The government did not and still does not have a database to verify eligible workers or any systematic employment verification process. Kammer believes the U.S. will have widespread illegal immigration so long as illegal aliens can easily obtain employment.
He adds that there is some hope that President Donald Trump will succeed in passing nationwide E-verify, which would make the I-9 process entirely digital and manageable for the average employer.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has introduced the Legal Workforce Act. The bill would create a database that verifies every employee’s legal status before they begin work.
Kammer’s “cautionary tale” warns that Americans should not fall for amnesty with future enforcement, unless that comes with strict worksite immigration enforcement, like E-verify.