Which is more important to deterring illegal entry, a wall on the southern border or making the E-Verify system mandatory? Both are regularly cited by immigration reformers as necessary to discourage illegal immigration. President Trump regularly calls for the wall construction that he introduced into his campaign. Those who have worked towards true reform much longer more often identify the E-Verify expansion as a priority.

The border wall is a logical rallying point for gaining public support for reform measures because it is easily understood and sensible to anyone who agrees on the need to deter illegal immigration. Yet a border wall will not guarantee that aliens will not be able to enter. That is because of the ability to climb over or tunnel under a wall, but, more importantly, because of the fact that an increasing share or illegal aliens enter with a visa and stay illegally. Both those who sneak into the country and those who flout the terms of their visa are motivated by the opportunity to earn more here than they could in their home country. That points to the need to remove the job magnet that attracts illegal immigration.

E-Verify allows employers to verify the name and Social Security number (SSN) of new employees with the federal government. Where facial photos are available – largely for those entering with visas – those too are made available to the employer. But the E-Verify system is not mandatory for all employers except in a few states, and even then in several of those states not for all employers in the state.  Virtually all experts on immigration policy agree that making E-Verify mandatory would have a major deterrent effect against illegal immigration. That effect may be seen as much in the opposition of business interests and open border advocates as in the support among true reformers.

But making E-Verify mandatory is not a panacea. The current loophole in the system that needs to be closed before it can be truly effective is the ability of illegal aliens using stolen IDs to get false validation from the system. This loophole has led to rampant stolen IDs from U.S. citizens and shared IDs among aliens. The ancillary reform needed to close this loophole is to furnish law enforcement personnel with information when a single SSN is being used by multiple individuals, or when the SSN was assigned to a deceased person or a child too young to legally work. That information is readily available to the Social Security Administration but currently is not shared with law enforcers.