AUSTIN (KXAN) — The White House has listed several demands for immigration reform and Democrats say it puts any deal in jeopardy that would protect the status of people who came here illegally as children.
One of the demands is requiring employers to use the online portal “E-Verify” to check employee work status.
Democratic leaders say the best way to solve the problem of illegal immigration is to create an easier path to become a permanent resident or a citizen. However, GOP leaders are favoring mostly law enforcement policies.
Creating a record of undocumented workers in Texas could be a monumental undertaking. According to a study from the University of Texas and the Workers Defense Project, one out of every two construction workers in Texas are working illegally.
“There are a lot of industries that rely on the labor of the undocumented workforce,” said Austin immigration attorney Faye Kolly. She says those workers will be needed as Texas rebuilds from Hurricane Harvey.
After Hurricane Katrina, federal immigration authorities waived legal documentation requirements to encourage a quick turnaround for New Orleans.
“I disagree that necessarily illegal immigrant workers are the only way we can rebuild,” said the chairman of the Texas GOP, James Dickey.
The president’s proposal is a plank in the state party’s platform because conservatives hope it will stop companies profiting by breaking the law and will create an even playing field that generates jobs for citizens of the United States.
Dickey says it would add another step to prevent employers from benefiting from breaking the law. “[There are] customers that aren’t aware they’re hiring illegal employees and employees who they can take advantage of because they are illegal. And we don’t want any of those situations,” he said.
However, most policymakers don’t look at the E-Verify program as a fix all for any side of the debate. Even if implemented, Kolly believes if someone wants to hire workers illegally, they’ll find a way.
“They may submit documentation that’s false and that’s something the E-Verify system just can’t catch,” said Kolly.
The latest US Census estimates show there are more than 80,000 construction workers in Central Texas. So based on the Workers Defense Project estimate, that would mean 40,000 people work illegally on construction sites in our area.
Below are some of the demands from President Trump’s DACA negotiations:
“Immigrants who come here illegally and enter the workforce undermine job opportunities and reduce wages for American workers, as does the abuse of visa programs. Therefore, the Administration increasing employment verification and other protections for U.S. workers.
- Require the use of the electronic status-verification system (“E-Verify”) to ensure the maintenance of a legal workforce in the United States.
- Preempt any State or local law relating to employment of unauthorized aliens.
- Impose strong penalties, including debarment of Federal contractors, for failure to comply with E-Verify
- Increase penalties for any person or entity engaging in a pattern or practice of violations.
- Require the Social Security Administration to disclose information to DHS to be used in the enforcement of immigration laws.
- Expand the definition of unlawful employment discrimination to include replacement of U.S. citizen workers by nonimmigrant workers or the preferential hiring of such foreign workers over U.S. citizen workers.
- Strengthen laws prohibiting document fraud related to employment or to any other immigration benefit.”