Want to Stop Illegal Immigration? Get Tough with Employers!
From erecting security border fencing and walls to increasing the number of temporary worker permits, a variety of solutions addressing illegal immigration were offered up to voters during this past fall’s mid-term elections. In addressing this highly contentious and critical issue, it is imperative that we as American citizens dialogue and develop consensus on the underlying causes of illegal immigration so that our elected officials can be held accountable in honestly and effectively addressing this issue.
Simply put, illegal immigrants are coming to the U.S. for jobs. In an AP article published last March, there are now as many as 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. workforce. That means one out of every twenty workers in America is an illegal immigrant. And this phenomenon comes with a hefty price tag. A study published by George Borjas, a professor of economics and social policy at Harvard University, concluded that by increasing the supply of labor between 1980 and 2000, immigration reduced the average annual earnings of U.S.-born men by an estimated $1,700 or roughly 4 percent. He also found that among U.S.-born men without a high school diploma (approximately the poorest tenth of the U.S. workforce), the estimated impact was even larger, reducing their wages by 7.4 percent.
So what to do? The only way we will ever reduce this tremendous influx of illegal labor is by having the U.S. government aggressively identify and sanction those employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. But given the federal government’s inaction on the issue, states across the country are stepping up on their own. I have co-sponsored legislation this year (HB 2163) that would significantly increase the penalties against employers that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The bill would also prohibit those firms that have been sanctioned for such an offense from participating in any state public works project for a period of five years. The premise of the bill is based on the idea of hitting violating companies where it financially hurts.
The Kansas Legislature has a rather dubious record on this issue. Despite a number of bills introduced since the 2003 session, the legislature has failed to toughen existing penalties that are widely perceived as being weak and ineffective. The legislature did, however, make some progress last year by passing legislation I sponsored that assists the Kansas Department of Revenue in identifying those companies that purposefully misclassify workers as independent contractors instead of W-2 employees (a prevalent business practice for those firms employing illegal immigrants). Given the building crescendo of concerns regarding this issue, I do expect to see stiffer sanctions become law within the next two years.
There are those who would try to use illegal immigration as a means for simply fanning American fears and prejudices against immigrants. If we want to get serious about stopping illegal immigration, however, we must instead focus our attention on fellow U.S. citizens who intentionally hire illegal immigrants. There can simply be no toleration for deliberate business practices that slowly but surely undermine the economic aspirations and potential of America’s working men and women.
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