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Employer Enforcement Key to Addressing Illegal Immigration

The workplace is where foundational reform must start

In recent weeks, the Bush Administration has authorized numerous workplace raids targeting illegal immigrants and the employers who have hired them. After more than 10 years of inaction, the federal government is long overdue to make employer and interior enforcement a priority. The true test for this administration, however, will be measured in the policy proposals President Bush ultimately supports. If he continues to advocate for a policy that rewards illegal behavior, then the workplace raids that are being carried out will be nothing more than window-dressing for an administration attempting to appear tough on illegal immigration.

There is a small window of opportunity for Congress and this White House to finally work together to produce legislation that can effectively and immediately impact the flow of illegal labor coming into our country. Instead of spending time trying to broker an impossible agreement between the House and Senate, we should pass legislation to address an area where both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate already have a consensus — employer enforcement.

Employer verification and employer enforcement have been instrumental parts of every legislative proposal that is being considered right now by Congress. The American people will no longer tolerate a policy of inaction. There is simply no excuse for failing to take action on interior enforcement.

Ending the insane practice of rewarding illegal immigrants with jobs and giving employers the tools they need to verify employment eligibility is a responsible and common sense step Congress can immediately take to demonstrate their commitment to illegal immigration reform. Doing so will provide employers with the resources they need to identify who should be here and who should not.

Document fraud has become a widespread problem as employers are ill-equipped to detect and authenticate workers’ identification documents. Currently, there are more than 30 types of identification employers can use to verify employment eligibility. By limiting the burden of documentation to just one, uniform card, employers will finally have the tools they need to comply with the law. We need to separate those who are egregiously violating the law and those who do not have the means to enforce and comply with the law.

Since the United States Congress cannot agree on how to address the 12 million illegal immigrants who are currently living in our country, why not concentrate our efforts on something we do agree on in the first place? Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate agree that employment opportunities are a driving force behind illegal immigration. This unanimity can be a starting point for action that is sorely needed. Republicans lost control of the Congress because they failed to take action to address this problem when they had the opportunity to do so. Now, we have another window of opportunity to take action and to pass legislation that will do more than meet the political needs of lawmakers who, up to this point, have yet to demonstrate the will to do what needs to be done to address illegal immigration.

Employer enforcement should be more than a benchmark; it should be the focal point of any illegal immigration plan. Some argue you have to do it all at the border, but the border is where the problem is originating, not where the effects are manifested. Border security provisions are window-dressing if you fail to adopt meaningful employer enforcement measures.

In the coming weeks, I am hopeful that the Democrat majority and the White House will do more to reach out to House Republicans and to the Immigration Reform Caucus. We can all agree that talking about illegal immigration reform isn’t enough anymore. We need to increase the penalties against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and prevent employers from exploiting those who are in pursuit of the American dream.

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Written By

Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-Carlsbad) is the Chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus and represents the 50th District of California, a region that neighbors the busiest border in the world.

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