The United States is currently paying up to $1.6 billion a year in unemployment insurance benefits to unemployed illegal alien workers.
Why should we pay these workers to, in effect, stay in the United States even after they have lost their jobs here, jobs that were obtained only through the violation of U.S. laws?
It is a good question, and one that has been rarely asked to date — but dealing with this topic would give the Trump administration an opportunity to reduce the illegal alien population by simply stopping these payments. (We addressed the issue of several other payment schemes for illegal alien in a prior blog posting.)
But we could do a little more with this situation.
A person who has (1) lost his or her job; and (2) lost unemployment benefits, might consider: "Maybe I should re-think the notion of staying in the United States." That would be a rational thing to do.
Why not use this moment to facilitate the newly unemployed person's return to the homeland?
Instead of simply sending the alien a notice that unemployment benefits are not available, why not send the alien a two-pronged message, saying these are his or her options:
1. The unemployment insurance agency will not only deny benefits, it will turn over your name, address, and other data to the Department of Homeland Security for deportation.
2. You can accept the Going Home package, which includes a one-way plane ticket to your homeland for you and your immediate family members, $100 in cash as you step off the plane, and $1,000 six months later to be paid, under secure conditions, at the U.S. embassy in your homeland. There would be no deportation order, but the alien would have to agree to not seek to enter the United States for 10 years.
All of this would be paid out of unemployment funds, not tax moneys. While the state entities (state employment service agencies) might object, the chances are that the new rules for illegal immigrants would save them money over the long run. The unemployment insurance system (for which I once worked in New Jersey) is covered by federal law and is managed by the federal Labor Department, but it gives states much leeway as to how the program is to be run.
The estimate of up to $1.6 billion for benefits paid to illegal aliens is of the ballpark variety. The nation spends some $32 billion a year on unemployment insurance, and about eight million of the nation's 160 million workers are illegals, or 5 percent. And 5 percent of $32 billion is $1.6 billion. The labor force estimate can be seen here.
How would the state employment service agencies determine who is an illegal alien and who is not? That would take a change of policy, but nothing more complicated.
After all, the E-Verify system provides a list of people who have genuine Social Security numbers issued to them, a list of people who are legally eligible for work. All the unemployment insurance staff would have to do is to run the SSNs of those applying for benefits against the E-Verify list. If there is no match to a genuine SSN issued to the worker in question, there would be no benefits. (The initially denied worker would have access to a simple administrative appeals system, in case of clerical errors, as such workers now have in the E-Verify system.)
The Obama administration did not have the will to take those simple steps. Maybe the Trump administration will see this as an enforcement opportunity.
I doubt that there would be a need for new legislation to impose such a regulation.
Mr. North, a Fellow of the Center for Immigration Studies, is an internationally recognized authority on immigration policy. His concentration is predominantly on the interaction between immigration and domestic systems, such as education and labor markets.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by the Center for Immigration Studies.