Politics & Policy

Accelerating Illegal Immigration

With unemployment above 12 percent, you’d think California would be doing anything it could to provide employment opportunities for its citizens.

You would be wrong.

Gov. Jerry Brown of California has on his desk a bill limiting the use of E-Verify, a computer system that helps ensure that new hires are legally entitled to work in the United States. Restricting E-Verify use would make sure that Americans and legal immigrants would have to continue competing with illegal aliens for jobs. The bill, which bears the Orwellian name of the Employment Acceleration Act, would prohibit any jurisdiction in the state from requiring private employers to use E-Verify in screening new hires, even if those firms are contractors with that local government. Not that this is a big problem just yet; only about ten small communities require its use in hiring for local agencies, government contractors, or all employers in the jurisdiction. But in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in March that such state and local E-Verify mandates are permitted under federal law, there was the possibility that more communities would get on the bandwagon, complicating life for illegal aliens and perhaps even persuading some of them to go home.

The California measure isn’t as sweeping as a 2007 Illinois law that would have essentially prohibited use of the free online E-Verify system (the Bush administration sued to stop the law), but it sends the same message that illegal immigrants are welcome in the state, regardless of their manifold violations of federal law. California is sending that message in other ways, as well: Governor Brown also has on his crowded desk legislation to give taxpayer-funded financial aid to illegal aliens, and two counties in the state (including San Francisco, naturally) will no longer honor requests from federal immigration agents to hold criminal aliens until they can be collected for deportation.

State action to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law has garnered much attention, some of it unwanted, as from the Department of Justice and the ACLU (our apologies for the redundancy). But while Arizona and Georgia and Indiana pass tough measures, a great many illegal aliens live in states such as California, New York, and Illinois, which will not render such assistance and may, as we’ve seen, seek to essentially nullify federal law.

Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is shepherding a bill, HR 2885, that would phase in E-Verify for all new hires nationwide, preempting anti-enforcement measures such as California’s. Unlike even the good state laws, which target only new hires, Smith’s measure would also help purge existing illegal workers by requiring the removal of workers using fake or stolen Social Security numbers.

Smith’s bill is opposed by the usual coalition of open-borders leftists and agricultural interests peddling Chicken Little warnings of crops rotting in the fields, but its prospects for House passage are good. Unlikely as it might seem, the measure has a realistic chance of also passing in the Senate, especially with 23 Democrats up for reelection in what, for them, will be a very difficult environment. What’s more, President Obama would almost certainly sign it, if only because it would be packaged as part of a larger bill that he would not be likely to veto.

Whether Governor Brown ends up signing or vetoing the E-Verify restrictions before him, the necessary response to such state measures is obvious: We need a single federal standard to help weaken the jobs magnet that draws illegal aliens to the United States.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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