Border Hawks Call on Abbott to Expand E-Verify

GOP gov looks to wall, but activists say citizenship work requirements needed to curb border crisis

A United States-Mexico border fence / Getty Images
June 17, 2021

Immigration hawks are calling on Texas Republican governor Greg Abbott to mandate E-Verify for private employers in the Lone Star State, a move they say could potentially solve the border crisis overnight.

In response to the record-breaking number of illegal immigrants crossing into his state from Mexico, Abbott announced that Texas would build its own border wall, which he said "will help all of us to work on ways to stem the flow of unlawful immigration and to stem the flow of illegal contraband." Although many on the right say a large barrier could deter future migrants from entering the country, border hawks and Abbott critics say the most promising solution is requiring companies to verify citizenship status for all workers.

Eight states, all with GOP governors, have taken up mandatory citizenship verification for most employers. Neighboring Arizona passed the mandate in 2007, but no state has passed such a law since 2012. Texas adopted E-verify for the public sector and government contractors in 2015 but does not require private employers to perform such background checks. Several high-level Republicans in the state, including Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller, are pushing Abbott to crack down on businesses that give migrants the incentive to risk illegal border crossings.

"We certainly need to have mandatory E-Verify, there's no reason not to do that, but our leadership obviously doesn't want that to happen or it would happen," Miller told the Washington Free Beacon. "They haven't ever, not the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, even the Speaker, none of them have ever really pushed that."

Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze blamed the Biden administration for causing the border crisis while insisting that Texas law adequately polices citizenship verification.

"President Biden's reckless open-border policies have led to a crisis along our southern border, with a 20-year record-high influx of migrants flooding into Texas. Delivering on a campaign promise in his first run for Governor, Governor Abbott signed a law in 2015 requiring all state agencies to use E-Verify—just one of many tools used to combat this immigration crisis," Eze told the Free Beacon. "The State of Texas continues to place the appropriate checks on the hiring of persons not lawfully present in the United States by public institutions."

In May, immigration authorities apprehended more than 180,000 illegal aliens as the nation experiences levels of illegal immigration not seen in at least 20 years. Meanwhile, Abbott has issued disaster declarations for at least 34 Texas counties, providing assistance for law enforcement struggling with illegal border crossings.

Run through the Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify allows businesses to determine the work eligibility of their employees and flag their immigration status. Results from a 2016 study suggest that E-Verify reduces the number of illegal immigrants in states that have mandated its use for all employers and that the program may deter overall illegal immigration to the United States. The study also found that the number of illegal arrivals fell by nearly 50 percent when a state implemented a mandatory E-Verify law.

"E-Verify is a necessary program that helps eliminate the jobs magnet for illegal aliens. While the state of Texas should be applauded for requiring public employers to use the program, it must also require it for private employers," Matthew Tragesser, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told the Free Beacon. "With Texans needing jobs and record numbers of illegal immigration occurring at the southern border, mandating E-Verify in both the public and private sectors is vital more than ever."

E-Verify has garnered bipartisan support, with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas), telling the Free Beacon he supports "mandates on an E-Verify program for employers in the United States, including both public and private entities."

"I understand that many migrants cross over to the U.S. in search of work and to make an honest living, but it's important that they do so legally," Cuellar wrote in a statement. "That is why I also support modernizing and reforming our immigration system as well as securing permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are key to the economic recovery of our nation."