Donald Trump recently issued his most influential executive order on immigration. Unfortunately, his order didn’t come from the executive branch. Instead, it came from the Trump Organization, the president’s private company.
The firm recently announced that its hotels, resorts, and golf clubs would adopt E-Verify -- the free, online federal program which allows employers to check the legal status of prospective workers.
Although Trump deserves credit for embracing the program, the vast majority of the nation’s employers have yet to follow suit. This has led to an economy that exploits undocumented workers at enormous costs to both native-born Americans and legal immigrants. Making E-Verify mandatory would hold employers accountable for their unlawful hiring practices while humanely reducing the incentive for workers to come here illegally.
E-Verify has existed since 1996, and it’s remarkably easy to use. Enrolled companies simply enter the name, birthdate, and Social Security number from a new hire’s I-9 form into the online system, and they’re quickly told whether the employee is legally eligible to work. Nearly 99% of new hires are verified as eligible within 24-hours. Most of the remaining 1% are eventually found to be illegal immigrants.
E-Verify is free and available to every employer in the country. My employer, Clemson University, has been using E-Verify for years now, and I’ve never heard of a legal immigrant having a problem.
Unfortunately, just 10% of employers currently use the program. Why? Because illegal workers lower operating costs. In a recent survey, 37% of illegals in America’s three largest cities reported being paid less than the minimum wage.
These exploitative practices carry significant financial benefits for businesses. According to Harvard University economist, George Borjas, illegals generate as much as $128 billion in added value for their employers each year.
American workers -- both native-born and legal immigrants -- suffer as a result. After all, if businesses have access to a pool of illegal labor willing to work for less than the minimum wage, why pay legal employees fairly -- or hire them in the first place? The result, according to Borjas, is that illegal immigrants lower the wages of native-born Americans by between $99 and $118 billion a year.
Mandatory E-Verify would ameliorate many of the problems arising from illegal immigration. As job opportunities for unauthorized workers dried up, the incentive to enter the country unlawfully would plummet. Businesses accustomed to exploiting cheap illegal workers would finally have to pay fair wages to American workers.
Dr. Mark Thies
Dow Chemical Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering