To Stop Illegal Immigration, Crack Down on Illegal Employment


November 8, 2020

By Tom Homan

Let’s be honest. Economic opportunity is the main force driving migration. Therefore, since illegal employment is a magnet for illegal immigration, it only makes sense that the United States government must find ways to take that magnet away.

Notice I specified “illegal employment.” As I’ve argued, if we need temporary workers or those with specialized skills, let’s find ways to employ those individuals legally. Taking away the enticement of illegal, “off the table,” employment will not only cause a reduction of illegal migration, but it will also save lives and take money away from criminal cartels. It is also more imperative now since American unemployment is so much higher in our new COVID environment. 

Most Americans don’t understand that many illegal aliens have to steal the identities of U.S. citizens by using their Social Security numbers. Identity theft is rampant within illegal employment. Many citizens have not only had their identity stolen, but have had their credit rating ruined by this practice.

The next time someone questions why Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is conducting a worksite operation, they need to ask themselves a few questions. How many U.S. citizens’ identities were stolen by those who were arrested? How many of those people had their credit ruined and what will it cost to fix it? How much money did the company that hired those illegal aliens fail to pay the U.S. government in required taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers compensation?

Many large-scale worksite enforcement operations involve a criminal investigation into the company for tax evasion. But let’s not overlook the human cost of these crimes; many illegal alien employees are exploited by these companies.

Employers do not hire illegal aliens out of the goodness of their hearts. They hire illegal aliens to pay them less and work them harder—often under terrible working conditions. Many employers use the threat of calling ICE if the illegal employees complain.

Employers hire illegal aliens so they can undercut their competition. The competition that employs American citizens.  Countless citizens have lost their jobs because their company could not compete with those companies that cheat the system.

As a real example, when I had to have my home’s roof repaired because of storm damage, I had to call several companies until I found one that would guarantee me a legal workforce.  When the contractor arrived he explained to me that he only does small roof repairs now and no longer employs more than a dozen U.S. citizens because he was being undercut by the companies who had illegal alien employees that they paid much less.  He had to lay off all his employees because he couldn’t compete. He not only paid his employees a fair wage, he also paid his employment taxes which many companies that have illegal alien employees don’t because they pay their employees under the table.

In my many years as an agent and investigator, almost every illegal alien I arrested had some sort of job in the United States—either unlawfully employed at a legitimate business or making money while involved in criminal activity. When I became ICE Director, I knew illegal employment was a major draw for those seeking to enter the United States. I immediately pledged to increase worksite enforcement by four hundred percent and we accomplished the goal in our first year. (We actually hit 420 percent.)

The solutions are, as usual, straightforward and based on common sense, but many members of Congress continue to fight against them. We must continue to step up work site enforcement, which requires Congress to fund more law enforcement positions for ICE to actually investigate companies across the nation. And because identity-fraud is so rampant with illegal alien employment, the Social Security Administration (SSA) database must be updated to make sure people are not using someone else’s Social Security number.

The fix is not rocket science. Whenever the SSA finds someone using a number that doesn’t belong to them, they can immediately send that information to ICE for follow-up. Not only would this provide ICE with valuable leads to investigate criminal behavior, it would help address identify theft.

But first and foremost, E-Verify needs to be mandatory. E-Verify is an online system which compares information on Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and SSA records to confirm authorization to work in the U.S.

By law, the I-9 form must be filled out by every employee; it requires documented proof of identity and work eligibility. The problem is, E-Verify is still optional for most businesses. It is mandatory for citizens and businesses to file taxes, so why don’t we require businesses to make sure their employees have the legal right to work here?

This program would save tens of millions of dollars annually in enforcement operations by making it much more difficult to use fake identities. E-Verify is the best tool available, and currently prevents a significant amount of unauthorized employment.  The system is not perfect and can be improved to fix the few loopholes that exist.

Ending the enticement of illegal employment is the right thing to do for this nation, regardless of who is the President.

Tom Homan is the former Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

Also published at: Tom Homan, To Stop Illegal Immigration, Crack Down on Illegal Employment, The Hill, November 7, 2020.

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