Now that federal Judge Susan Bolton has put on hold the most controversial provisions of Arizona’s new immigration law, cities that have taken their own measures to discourage illegal immigration may be having second thoughts.
Temecula, Menifee, and other city councils have recently passed ordinances that will require businesses to verify their workers are in the country legally. The method prescribed for checking immigration status is the federal government’s own E-Verify program—“an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 … to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.”
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website proudly declares that this mostly voluntary system is currently being used by “more than 200,000 employers.” It adds that “most employers in Arizona and Mississippi are required to use E-Verify” as well as some (but not all) employers with federal contracts.
Put in context, 200,000 is fewer than the number of businesses in Los Angeles County. So the boast that 1,000 new businesses are signing up each week means that in another year the system will cover the hiring equivalent of the nation’s largest county. At that rate the country’s estimated six million firms with employees will all be E-Verified in about a century.
There’s the rub. Cities that passed ordinances requiring E-Verify assumed that the existence of a federal verification system meant the feds wouldn’t object to mandatory implementation of that system. Yet if that were the case the Obama administration wouldn’t be aiming its legal guns at Arizona, whose SB 1070 largely mirrors federal law. Instead, they would be targeting sanctuary cities.
The real problem the White House has with Arizona is that the state takes federal immigration laws seriously. Similarly, states and cities that mandate E-Verify may eventually find themselves on the wrong side of legal suits directed by Obama’s Justice Department or its private legal arm, the ACLU, if such mandates become widespread and effective.
After all, if Arizona’s law requiring police to inquire about immigration status in the course of other enforcement actions is deemed an unacceptable burden on “lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked,” a similar argument could be made on behalf of individuals whose employment is affected by E-Verify issues.
That an opponent of E-Verify at a Temecula rally openly declared her husband was in the country illegally shows how unserious the feds really are about “unauthorized employment.” I’ll wager the lady’s husband will be deported when E-Verify is mandatory throughout the country—i.e. not soon, if ever.