With 11 million undocumented immigrants, the United States must do a better job of securing the borders and enforcing immigration laws. Increased border enforcement has helped bring illegal entry to the lowest levels in two decades — yet a weaker economy has contributed as well, and as economic conditions improve, illegal immigration will grow more attractive unless additional enforcement provisions are put in place. That is why the Business Roundtable proposes that the U.S. government:
Eliminate the magnet of illegal employment. The Pew Research Hispanic Center estimates that 5 percent of the American workforce is not authorized to work.1 American business leaders are ready to participate in a nationwide electronic system for verifying the eligibility of every new hire in the United States.
Proposed solutions include:
- Phasing in mandatory compliance with the current electronic employment verification system for all new hires after the undocumented workforce and temporary worker programs have been addressed and only after DHS certifies that the database supporting this verification system is at least 99.5 percent accurate. Failure to comply would result in appropriate penalties.
- Ensuring a single nationwide standard for use of this system by pre-empting relevant state laws.
- Protecting employers that are using the system in good faith from legal action that may result from complying with it.
Pursue more effective strategies to secure American borders and ports of entry. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), only 15 percent of the southern border is secure, and only 44 percent of that border is under operational control.
Proposed solutions include:
- Mandating additional physical and surveillance resources as appropriate to meet ongoing security needs.
- Authorizing the U.S. government to enter into immigration enforcement agreements with foreign countries to ensure cooperation in limiting illegal immigration from those nations. Citizens of countries that participate in enforcement efforts could then become eligible for additional permits to work legally in the United States.
- Increasing penalties for criminal violations related to human smuggling.
- Improving and expanding ports of entry to increase the capacity for detecting violations and to reduce waiting times.
- Finalizing the entry-exit data system at air and sea ports of entry to identify visa overstays.
Provide for consistent and effective enforcement of immigration laws across the country. Local law enforcement officials in fewer than 100 counties across the United States are currently trained to directly verify the immigration status of criminals they apprehend or already hold in custody. Local communities also lack confidence that criminal immigrants who have been apprehended and turned over to federal officials will not be released back into the community. Proposed solutions include:
- Streamlining the legal process to ensure that criminal immigrants in the United States who are identified and properly detained are not released back into the community.
- Facilitating the ability of local law enforcement across the country to determine electronically the immigration status of individuals they arrest for criminal offenses, and enabling local law enforcement to work more effectively to support federal immigration authorities to remove from the United States those who are here illegally.