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November 11, 07

NEWS / Worksite Solutions May Help Immigration Challenge

Migrants are continually drawn to the United States by employment opportunities. Despite efforts to manage unauthorized workers in the labor market with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, illegal immigration has increased over the last two decades. A new study released by Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), calls for a renewed look at electronic worksite verification that provides timely and accurate verification, limits document fraud and identity theft, and protects the rights and privacy of authorized workers to curb illegal immigration.

"Border enforcement is a necessary but insufficient approach to unauthorized migration,” says B. Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at ISIM and co-author of the report. “Within the constraints of both the Mexican and U.S. governments, more can be done to foster cooperation to ensure secure and efficient borders… without a never-ending build-up of border enforcement.”

The report, “Worksite Solutions to Unauthorized Migration,” argues for incremental steps that must be taken to address the full range of policies needed to control unauthorized migration in the workplace. According to co-author Susan Martin, who holds the Donald G. Herzberg Chair in International Migration and previously served as the Executive Director of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, “immigration reform is never easy. Too many interests benefit from the status quo, but illegal migration will continue to grow and the public will become increasingly more disillusioned if steps are not taken. Those steps must include more robust worksite enforcement.”

The authors advocate for a combination of improved employment verification and enhanced enforcement of employer sanctions, labor standards and anti-discrimination measures. Specifically, they argue that the current verification system should be expanded for broader use by committing resources to improve the quality and accessibility of data, test mechanisms to verify identity through biometrics, and educate employers on their responsibilities in the verification process.

The report’s authors also believe Immigration and Customs Enforcement should increase its capacity to identify and prosecute employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers, while the Department of Labor also increases its ability to combat violations of labor standards. In the area of temporary worker legislation, the researchers argue that the U.S. should target new work programs on certain industries with seasonal employment cycles, as well as industries already dependent on unauthorized workers.

The report also recommends a step-by-step approach to regularizing the status of unauthorized migrants in the country. Researchers argue that businesses and workers should be given the opportunity to regularize their operations and legal status as they participate in initiatives such as E-Verify and the Photo Screening Tool Pilot Program. The authors also call for reforms in the area of legal permanent admissions. As a top priority they argue for reducing backlogs in U.S. admissions categories – in particular family categories – to permit more rapid admission of immediate family members thereby discouraging unlawful entry.

“Different groups are equally committed to ensuring that unauthorized migrants, on the one hand, are kept out of the country and do not receive amnesty if they have entered illegally, or on the other that these workers gain access to legal employment opportunities and eventually, citizenship,” the report’s authors write. “The resolution of these differences will require willingness to compromise on legislation that can successfully control the employment magnet with workable verification systems and meaningful enforcement, while addressing the existing illegally-resident population and the admission of future workers.”

Over a two-year period, ISIM researchers conducted in-depth interviews with stakeholders in key immigrant communities including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix/Tuscon and Des Moines, Iowa and convened a meeting of experts on electronic worksite verification. The report includes a statistical picture of U.S. immigration and the growth of unauthorized migration since the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The authors report on the challenges to enforcement and discuss efforts to electronically streamline employment verification, in particular the Basic Pilot program. They also review lessons learned from the policy community about improving electronic verification systems and establishing identity with “data light” methods.

Source: Office of Communications (November 9, 2011)

Tags: employment verification, document,


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