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Cincinnati Enquirer - Portman: Immigration bill still has rough edges


Location: Washington, DC

In case you missed it in today's Cincinnati Enquirer, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) makes the case for increased employment verification and employer sanctions as part of any immigration reform package. "If we want to curtail illegal immigration, we must put enforcement measures in place to turn off the "jobs magnet" for those who do not come through legal channels," Portman wrote.

The Op-Ed is included below.

Portman: Immigration bill still has rough edges
Cincinnati Enquirer
Sen. Rob Portman
July 1, 2013

In 1986, Congress passed a comprehensive, bipartisan reform package intended to solve the problem of illegal immigration. That reform failed. On Thursday, the Senate passed another immigration reform bill. The legislation is comprehensive. It is bipartisan. And without key changes, it will also fail.

The Senate has not learned the critical lesson of 1986: Until we combine legalization of those who are here with enforcement of our laws -- including securing the border and turning off the jobs magnet -- future flows of illegal immigration are inevitable.

Most people who come here illegally are looking for a job and to build a better life for themselves and their families. This is why workplace enforcement is so important. No matter how many miles of fence we build, no matter how many agents we station along the border, so long as better jobs are available, many will figure out a way to come here illegally.

If we want to curtail illegal immigration, we must put enforcement measures in place to turn off the "jobs magnet" for those who do not come through legal channels. And the only way to do that is through effective employment verification and employer sanctions. Here, unfortunately, the Senate immigration bill falls short.

Effective employment verification has been contemplated for decades. But lacking a universal, secure system of identity verification, these efforts have failed. The best recent study indicates that a pilot of the so-called E-Verify system envisioned by the current bill has a false-positive error rate of 54 percent. This means more than half of the unauthorized workers processed through the E-Verify system are erroneously found to be eligible for employment. The current immigration bill would mandate use of E-Verify by all employers, but it does so over a period of years and does not address the inadequacies of the E-Verify system itself.

Sen. Tester of Montana and I proposed an amendment that would have significantly strengthened our E-Verify system in several critical ways. Senate leadership refused to allow a vote on that amendment. But what the Senate could not do, the House of Representatives can. I am urging the House to include in any final immigration bill the steps that our amendment would have taken to make E-Verify work. These steps are critical to closing the last loopholes that illegal immigrants can use to circumvent the system and get a job.

First, we must enhance E-Verify's fraud protections by requiring the federal government to take meaningful steps to detect identity theft and punish those who use Social Security numbers that don't belong to them. We must also strengthen the effectiveness of a process known as Photo Tool, which enables employers to match a new employee's photo identification with a digital E-Verify image. In order to protect information that is part of the program, our reform included robust data privacy protections to make certain that photos and other information used in the E-Verify process are not collected, stored, or improperly disseminated.

To ensure E-Verify does not impose an undue burden on businesses, any reform should provide safe harbor protection to employers who comply in good faith with its requirements. And perhaps most importantly, our amendment would have required a real trigger-- the full implementation of effective, mandatory E-Verify by all employers before those currently here illegally could apply for permanent resident (or "green card") status.

I will continue to work hard on this issue, and have already shared our strengthened E-Verify proposals with key members of the House of Representatives with the hope that a House-Senate process will result in a bill that works and one I can support.

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