House border security bill is the wrong solution for immigration policy

Last week, the House of Representatives voted along party lines to approve the Secure the Border Act.

The bill, which won’t get anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate, calls for resuming construction of a border and mandate a national E-Verify program for employers to verify the eligibility of those they hire, among other provisions.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy was clearly pleased with passage of the bill, declaring it “the strongest border security bill to pass through Congress in more than 100 years.”

Of course, “strongest” doesn’t mean “best” nor does it mean “viable” in this case.

This editorial board has questioned the merits of a border wall as well as E-Verify.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, one of two Republicans in the House to oppose the bill, rightly noted that such a mandate greatly expands the reach of the federal government in employment decisions.

“I will not vote to require every American to get Biden’s permission if they want to work,” Massie tweeted. “Specifically, I’m opposed to E-verify. Giving the federal government more power over YOU is a mistake in my opinion. I support border security, but not E-verify.”

Echoing this was California Republican John Duarte, who warned, “The mandatory E-Verify in this bill would have caused a lot of companies to lose very, very important employees, and would have criminalized a lot of our employers here in the Valley who have been using E-Verify.”

Indeed, the E-Verify system is not error-proof. To the extent that it has been used in certain states, errors in the form of misidentifying workers as ineligible have disrupted the employment of 760,000 workers as of 2019, according to the Cato Institute.

If scaled up across the country, even with a low error rate, the number of workers denied employment will be quite high. That is unacceptable.

There are legitimate issues for Congress to debate and legislate on when it comes to the border and immigration policy.

However, legislation with no chance of getting anywhere isn’t the way to anything. There must be serious, bipartisan effort to come up with workable solutions that don’t just sound good to any party’s base.

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