Immigration reform rests on a national worker ID
Obama's pursuit of immigration reform this year must focus on the bipartisan idea of a national worker ID. It would do more than the jobs bill to open up work for the unemployed.
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The problems with E-Verify have been many – it is voluntary, fails to flag many illegal workers, and is prone to fraud. Employers seeking low-wage workers have little incentive to use it.Skip to next paragraph
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Obama could quickly reduce the nation’s high jobless rate with passage of a law requiring legal residents and Americans, even teenagers, to obtain a federal ID as legal workers. Migrants working outside the law would then be forced to come clean on their illegal activity, leave the country, and perhaps properly apply for a US visa – as millions of law-abiding people do around the world who wait years to enter the US.
To reach full employment, Obama needs to create about 8 million jobs – or nearly the number of illegal immigrants in the US.
After nearly 14 months in office, the president still needs to show a firm commitment to immigration enforcement. His record so far is mixed.
He seeks more funding for E-Verify and a program called Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) that screens applicants for welfare programs. But his proposed budget would also reduce the size of the border patrol by 180 officers and cut funding for the Southwest border fences.
And the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has all but ended federal raids on workplaces with a large number of illegal workers – raids which would need to be done humanely – in favor a more narrow focus on deporting illegals with criminal records.
Under Obama, local police are no longer encouraged to enforce federal immigration law, although local officials are receiving federal help in checking the legal status of people in county and city jails.
The last attempt by Congress at immigration reform failed in 2007 when it became clear that Americans wanted to see a long-term track record on immigration enforcement. The decline in the number of illegal aliens by about a million since January 2008, while aided by a recession, indicates that enforcement works.
An easy victory for Obama this year would be the passage of a national worker ID program along with other stepped-up enforcement measures. Only after that should Congress address what to do with the remaining immigrants who still live in the shadow of the law.
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