Whatever you think of Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border, there’s another wall we can complete right now: E-Verify.
That’s the name of the free online system that enables employers to check whether the people they hire are telling the truth about who they are. By entering the name, Social Security number, and date of birth of the new hire — something employers already have to collect — they get an answer in seconds about whether the person is an illegal immigrant or not.
This matters because jobs are the main reason foreigners sneak into the United States (or overstay visitor visas). And the large majority of the estimated 11 million illegals work on the books. So the harder it is for an illegal immigrant to get a job, especially an on-the-books job, the less appealing it will be to sneak in or overstay.
It was actually legal to employ illegal immigrants until 1986. The big immigration law passed that year contained at its heart a grand bargain: amnesty for illegals already here in exchange for banning the employment of new illegals. But since the only available way to check if your new hires were legal was with easily forged paper documents, crooked employers continued to be able to hire illegals with impunity. And legitimate employers had no real way of telling who was who.
Enter E-Verify, the product of many years of political pressure and technical development. With E-Verify, responsible employers can make sure their workforce is legal. And crooked employers will be easier to identify and punish.