Fox News reports this morning that President-elect Donald Trump has slightly walked back his assertion that Mexico will pay for “the Great Wall.” Meaning the U.S. taxpayer will initially be on the hook for the estimated $14 billion project and we will be “paid back by Mexico later!”
I think “the Great Wall” is a better title for the next great American musical than sound immigration policy.
I interact with our immigration system everyday serving my clients. Here’s my advice to President-elect on how to get our immigration system moving in a more secure direction:
- Robust IT infrastructure investment: I regularly FedEx phone book sized filings to USCIS because there is no system for electronic filing. This leads to lost documentation, wasted time and higher costs. I recently emailed the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to fix a visa error in a client’s passport - my email bounced back because the attachment limit was 1MB. I was brought back to the days of AOL dial up.
- Mandatory E-Verify: All employers should be required to use E-Verify for all of their employees. The current iteration of E-verify also needs to be improved.
- National Biometric ID card: This card would be mandated for work authorization, voting and all government benefits. Many countries with economies similar to the U.S. have national ID cards.
- Robust Exit / Entry tracking system: There is no robust system for tracking people who are legally admitted to the U.S. and whether they comply with the exit date on their visa. The latest somewhat reliable data available is from a 2004 report based upon 2000 data, stating that visa overstays account from 27% to 31% to 57% of those in the U.S. illegally. If there are roughly 11,000,000 people in the U.S. illegally that is between 2.9 million and 6.2 million people who would have had no interaction with “the Great Wall."
- Significant employer sanctions: We pay our taxes because we know the IRS generally wins. Employers exploit undocumented workers because they know they can get away with it. The 1986 immigration reform and amnesty under Ronald Reagan was stripped of meaningful employer sanctions — leading us to our current situation.
“The Great Wall” is a wonderful public relations tool, but it will not solve the very real problems our immigration system has.