UPDATE: Looks like Nathan Deal is already caving in on e-Verify. See Political Insider.
Here’s the real reason that high rates of illegal immigration have never been curbed: Business wants cheap labor. Republicans have made bashing illegal immigrants an implicit part of their party platform. It’s great red meat for a nativist base. But the GOP hasn’t actually done the cheap and easy thing that would bring down the numbers of illegal immigrants: crack down on businesses that hire illegally.
A bill currently before the Georgia Senate would require many businesses to use e-Verify, a free instant background check run by the Department of Homeland Security. Six people testified on the bill, all of them opposing it. From the AJC:
In testifying before a Senate subcommittee Monday, representatives from the state’s agricultural and commercial construction industries singled out provisions in Senate Bill 40 that would require certain businesses to use E-Verify to make sure newly hired employees are eligible to work in this country.
Critics say E-Verify, a federal program, has accuracy problems and can be burdensome for businesses. A coalition of businesses and immigrant rights groups is suing to stop a similar law in Arizona that requires all businesses to use E-Verify, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
Federal officials, meanwhile, say they are improving the free E-Verify program’s accuracy. It automatically confirms 98 percent of employees as being eligible to work in the United States, a federal report says.
In all, the subcommittee heard Monday from about six speakers, all of whom were critical of the legislation. . .
Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, was among those who spoke to the Senate subcommittee Monday. Tolar underscored the importance of agriculture in Georgia’s economy, saying it is a $68.8 billion industry.
“When I read this bill and we talk about requirements for e-verification, I see a shrinking of Georgia’s agricultural economy,” Tolar said of Senate Bill 40. “Are we setting ourselves up to turn the tables on our economy instead of to grow our economy?”
While Murphy was crafting his legislation last year, the Georgia Farm Bureau — which represents nearly 400,000 families — declared illegal immigration “is a federal issue, not a state or local issue.”
There is nothing “burdensome” about e-Verify. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s free. It has a low error rate. The fact that it works so well makes it a problem for business owners, who, for now, get to claim ignorance about their workers, many of whom use fake documents.
(I wrote my Sunday column on a federal bill to require e-Verify. You can read the entire column here.)
This hypocrisy extends to Republican voters, who worship business. If voters wanted illegal immigration fixed, they would tell their elected officials to insist on e-Verify. But conservative voters prefer bashing immigrants to fixing the problem.