Ira Mehlman

With the U.S. economy shedding jobs at the rate of half a million a month, President-elect Obama has proposed the most massive public works initiative since Franklin Roosevelt assumed office in the midst of the Great Depression. The plan calls for still greater deficit spending in the hopes of jump-starting our sputtering economy and providing jobs for millions of unemployed Americans.

If we are going to spend billions, perhaps even trillions, of borrowed dollars to create public works jobs, an absolute prerequisite must be an insurance policy that the beneficiaries of the program are U.S. workers. The mechanisms for guaranteeing that American workers are the beneficiaries of a massive jobs stimulus package exist, but it will be up to the Congress and the Obama administration to see that they are utilized.

One of the early decisions awaiting the new Congress and the Obama administration will be reauthorization of the E-Verify program that allows employers to check the employment eligibility of the people they hire. Without congressional reauthorization, E-Verify will expire in March.

Earlier this year, President Bush signed an executive order requiring all federal contractors and subcontractors to participate in the E-Verify program. With the Obama administration’s announced goal of having the federal government create millions of new jobs, enforcing laws against the employment of illegal aliens will take on added urgency.

It is the availability of jobs in this country that has attracted illegal aliens here for decades. As the economic crisis spreads around the world, millions of people in other countries will be searching for jobs wherever they can find them. Thus, without a reliable system to screen out unauthorized workers, a publicly financed jobs creation program in this country would certainly create a magnet for even larger scale illegal immigration.

President-elect Obama and congressional leaders should publicly commit to reauthorize the E-Verify without any political strings attached. The House of Representatives approved a five-year reauthorization in September by a vote of 407-2, but Senate consent was scuttled by a single member, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who demanded more than half a million additional green cards be issued – a figure ominously close to the number of jobs our economy lost in November alone.

Ira Mehlman

Ira Mehlman is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.