A DACA solution demands a true bipartisan compromise which includes E-Verify

John Mirisch
Councilmember and former three term mayor of Beverly Hills

Now is the time for policy, not politics.

Now is the time to get beyond the immigration word games like calling those “anti-immigrant” who in reality are simply opposed to illegal immigration, or calling those a “restrictionist” who don’t necessarily want to restrict immigration beyond the current level, but who really just want to control it.

Now is the time to get beyond the ill-advised and stupid verbiage of the President and the opportunistic grandstanding of Senators Booker and Harris.

Now is the time to stop using immigration word games to try to re-define the center for political gain.

Here are the extremes: on the one side we have open-borders advocates who feel that everybody should be let in to our country; and on the other side we have absolute restrictionists who feel that nobody should be let in. Those are the extremist positions.  And here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

While polls show that a majority of Americans support a fix for the DACA recipients, they also show that a majority Americans support programs like mandatory E-Verify which would preclude future illegal immigration, as well as moving to a merit-based system of immigration.

Clearly, any sensible DACA deal which is based on good policy would have to deal with the knock-on effects of amnesty that such a deal would create.

So to call a DACA solution which only deals with the status of the DACA recipients a “clean“ bill is not only merely another immigration word game, it’s also a half-baked, piecemeal solution, not to mention bad policy.

The adoption of mandatory E-Verify for employers is not only a popular policy with the American people, it’s also perhaps the most important measure the government can take in controlling the knock-on effects of an amnesty and future illegal immigration.

Yet corporatist-libertarian groups like the Cato Institute, who are more concerned about keeping open the spigots of cheap labor, have tried to attack E-Verify’s efficacy as a solution to controlling immigration.

In 2015 Cato published a long-winded “policy analysis,” which attempted to disqualify E-Verify as a key element of immigration policy.

Cato’s attempt to discredit E-Verify does make some valid points about some current problems with the system; however, their overall conclusion that the system should be discarded is a false one. What the report really achieves is pointing to some of the flaws within E-Verify which can and should be fixed. Yes, in some cases state governments have not been consistent about enforcement; yes, in some instances businesses who violated state laws mandating E-Verify, were not penalized sufficiently; yes, use of E-Verify has encouraged would-be violators to engage in fraud and forgery.

The solution is to address each of the specific issues.  States need to do a better job of enforcement; businesses which break the law need to penalized consistently so that the deterrent intent of the law can take effect; and forgers and fraudsters should not only be penalized themselves, but the proper authorities should be taking advantage of technology to deal with and forestall forgery and fraud.

However, Cato’s overall conclusion that E-Verify should be scrapped — or that any other technological solution to keeping track of who is in the country legally is simply not feasible — is flawed, if not patently absurd. Our military relies on technology to protect the homeland; our banking system relies on technology to prevent widespread international fraud; other countries effectively use systems similar to E-Verify.  Sweden can do it, but we can’t?  The very notion that we are not able to develop an effective technological solution to keeping track of who is in our country legally, upon which Cato’s conclusions stand, is simply ridiculous.

In fact, the Cato report seems to acknowledge, if only obliquely, that technology could provide the key to a more effective E-Verify when they write in their executive summary that “a biometric identity system for all Americans (is) a step that must be avoided.”  Of course, nowhere do the authors make the arguments as to why the use of biometrics should be avoided aside from suggesting that E-Verify could possibly lead to a national ID which, they claim, “is anathema to American freedom.”  Trying to rule out a real technology-based solution to controlling immigration by painting the devil on the wall, Cato suggests that the E-Verify data and other forms of more effective identification could be used for other nefarious purposes beyond controlling access to immigration.

Effectively, Cato is trying to preclude any technologically effective way of controlling identity through claiming by fiat that the use of biometric data and other forms of establishing identity are “un-American,” — and so we should just give up even trying.  Yes, that’s what they spend 24 pages with footnotes trying to “prove.”

It’s a good thing that logic and common sense can sometimes outweigh footnotes.

Cato conveniently ignores that the horse has already left the barn; that the ship has sailed; and that the dog won’t hunt. Anybody who currently wants to get on a plane, open up a bank account, or engage in any number of common everyday activities currently needs to have photo ID. So unless you’re a backwoodsman who shuns all contact with society, the notion that requiring photo ID (or whatever the next permutations are to make such ID unforgeable, including the use of biometrics) is somehow an impingement upon our core American freedoms is equally ridiculous.  What kind of “freedom” would we have if we couldn’t travel, couldn’t open up a bank account, couldn’t use a credit card, couldn’t drive a car, couldn’t have a glass of wine or couldn’t, if need be, apply for public benefits?

In fact, having national ID standards could also create other collateral benefits. The government could provide an approved ID free of charge to those who would want it but who can’t afford it. Because, who knows? The person who currently does not have any form of ID might actually one day want to open up a bank account or get on a plane or adopt a pet or pick up a prescription or even get married…

Unfortunately, even as the Cato report points to how E-Verify can be more effective if the bugs in the system are fixed, E-Verify is not part of the current Graham-Durbin, “Gang of Six” bill which is being touted as a “bipartisan compromise.”  By not including E-Verify or any other technology-based system to control access to employment, Graham, Durbin & Co. seem more interested in perpetuating porous borders rather than strengthening border security with a system that would mitigate the knock-on effects of the amnesty which is central to their proposal.

The Graham-Durbin bill seems to be more about talking points than real solutions, more about politics than policy, as it is neither bipartisan nor is it a compromise. Notwithstanding their party affiliations, all of the members of their “negotiating team“ share the same views that amnesty for DACAns is the centerpiece of the “deal.” That is, they are by definition partisan. A true bipartisan deal would involve negotiations between this “Gang of Six“ and the other side, namely, those whose primary focus is controlling immigration and for whom the notion of amnesty is truly problematic.

Up to now, Graham, Durbin & Co. have effectively been negotiating with themselves. But an echo chamber is not the place to find a true democratic compromise.

This Gang of Six should begin immediately negotiating with the control/enforcement advocates such as Representatives Goodlatte and Labrador and Senator Cotton and hash out a bill which would truly represent a compromise in the best democratic spirit and which would truly be bipartisan in a meaningful, rather than word-gamey way.

I personally believe such a compromise could and should include the following points:

      Amnesty for DACA recipients and an eventual pathway to citizenship.

      Legalization for the parents who brought their children here illegally, with no pathway to citizenship for this group. The argument that this would create “second-class citizens” is a bad one; it was the conscious decision of these people to break our laws in coming or staying here which created this problem in the first place. Additionally, there are already many legal residents in this country who are not American citizens and who aren’t — and shouldn’t be described as –“second-class citizens.” Offering a pathway to citizenship for the parents would be totally unfair to the millions of would-be immigrants who are patiently waiting their turn in line in their countries of origin. If parents of DACA recipients, who themselves broke our immigration laws, want to become American citizens, then they should have to return to their home countries and wait in line behind everybody else.  Their choice.

      Border security measures. From my perspective this would not need to include a full wall, spanning the length of the US-Mexico border, which, in my opinion, may not be the best use of funds.

      Mandatory E-Verify. If amnesty for DACAns is the key element for Graham, Durbin & Co., instituting mandatory E-Verify is the counter-balance without which a meaningful compromise is not possible.  To avoid perpetuating the problem of illegal immigration which an amnesty would no doubt incentivize, there needs to be rigorous internal enforcement. It’s clearly unacceptable to perpetuate a situation in which, if people somehow manage to get inside our borders, we cannot control whether they stay or not, especially since most people who are here illegally have entered the country legally. As suggested above, not to do everything possible to ensure that those working here have a legal right to do so cannot be interpreted in any other way than that one is not actually serious about border security beyond mere window-dressing.

      Changing the lottery to a merit-based, color-blind system, similar to the practice in place in Canada, Australia and other countries, while continuing to be welcoming to bona fide refugees.  Rather than randomly accepting immigrants on the basis of a lottery, we too should be able to admit the immigrants who we feel will have the capacity to make the best contributions to our society.

      Ending chain migration. Absurdly, some, including Senator Durbin, have suddenly tried to suggest that the term chain migration is pejorative when it is actually descriptive – like the term “chain letter” or “chain reaction.” It describes the consequences of the current policy which for each potential immigrant creates a significant multiplier coefficient. Family-based immigration should continue, but new immigrants should only be able to sponsor minor children and spouses by right. We might also consider allowing the elderly parents of recent immigrants to immigrate, provided they themselves do not sponsor additional adult children.

These fixes would put us on a path to once again be a country which honors our immigrant legacy but also has the ability to adapt to the changing world. Far from turning DACA recipients into “bargaining chips,” a true bipartisan compromise would be using their plight as an impetus to make much needed corrections to a system which has long been broken and it would avoid putting children in the future at risk of finding themselves in a similar situation.

 

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