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President Trump should start by building an electronic wall


Imagine if President Donald Trump’s much-touted wall cost nothing to build. And if it deterred not only illegal border crossers, but also those who legally come to the United States and then overstay their visas. And if it could be erected almost instantaneously.

Impossible? Actually, that wall already exists — electronically. E-Verify is a free, online resource that empowers employers to check whether employees are eligible to work in the United States. It can ferret out illegal workers in seconds.

Requiring all businesses to use E-Verify would drastically reduce illegal immigration by turning off the jobs magnet that attracts illegal laborers. That would protect American workers and boost wages. And unlike most Washington regulations, it would do so without burdening taxpayers and businesses or infringing on citizens’ civil liberties.

The Department of Homeland Security administers E-Verify. The site cross-references employees’ I-9 work authorization forms against their Social Security numbers, visas, and other records. In seconds, the system either greenlights a hire or issues a “tentative non-confirmation,” which lets employers know that the person might not be authorized to work.

The system is overwhelmingly accurate. From October 2015 to June 2016, E-Verify processed 24 million cases. Nearly 99 percent were green lit immediately. Barely one percent resulted in tentative non-confirmations — and 86 percent of those tentative non-confirmations ultimately resulted in final non-confirmations after further review.

In other words, the vast majority of people who received tentative non-confirmation notices truly weren’t authorized to work, and the system caught them. Further, employers who use E-Verify are dissuading illegal workers from applying in the first place.

Many states — like New Mexico, Georgia and North Carolina — already require employers to use E-Verify. Other businesses use the service voluntarily. Over 600,000 employers have enrolled in E-Verify, and more than 1,000 new employers join each week.

Some corporate groups have warned that E-Verify would burden businesses. This is not true. E-Verify provides an initial result in seconds, and it requires virtually no additional equipment or training. Three-quarters of businesses say that using the system would cost them absolutely nothing.

Mandating E-Verify would curb illegal immigration more than even the highest border wall could. That’s because 40 percent of illegal aliens arrive legally and then overstay their visas. Making it nearly impossible to hold a job without legitimate work papers would compel many illegal workers to return home, and discourage others from immigrating in the first place.

Ridding the labor pool of illegal workers would spur wage growth, especially for lesser-skilled American workers. Immigration reduces these workers’ wages by up to $1,500 a year, according to Harvard economist George Borjas.

Blue-collar workers aren’t the only ones who would benefit. Illegal immigration affects all sectors of the U.S. economy. One in eight illegal aliens in the United States holds a white-collar job, according to the Pew Research Center.

E-Verify will also level the playing field for businesses. It’s unfair that firms who hire illegal workers and pay them artificially low wages can undercut their ethical companies who hire legal workers and pay them fairly.

Making E-Verify mandatory for all employers is the quickest, most efficient way to deter illegal immigration. It’d boost wages and open up job opportunities for American citizens and legal immigrants. And since this electronic wall is already in place, nobody would have to pay for it. Not even Mexico.

Stacy Washington is a decorated Air Force Veteran and host of nationally syndicated radio program “Stacy on the Right,” based in St. Louis.

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