3 Reasons Why Immigration Issues Are Catching Up With Employers

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Jun 10, 2010

I’ve been watching the debate over Arizona’s immigration bill with great interest over the past couple of months.

As has happened with a lot of political issues in the past decade, people are coming out strong on one side or the other. Read through the comment section of major online publications when they feature the new law. Not only tough language but strong emotions. Supporters talking tough about boycotting those opposed to the law. The opposition pledging the same.

What I find intriguing in all of this is the relative quietness of employers on the issue. Certainly they’ve got to see that they have some skin in the game. Last month, Dr John Sullivan put together a piece about the potential employer impact of the law. That article was not warmly received by those who support the law by the way. It is undeniable that the new law will have some impact on the Arizona economy one way or another. Immigrants who come over the border illegally are impacting the economy in some way, right?

I’ve got to think that they see some of the writing on the wall. Somewhere in the supply chain, illegal immigrants are contributing to some businesses and they don’t want to be targeted with increased paperwork, hassle, delays in work or regulations. So why are these issues going to start catching up with employers?

1. The current set of laws just aren’t going to work

I don’t care which side of the debate you are on, it is clear that the current set of laws (including the new ones in Arizona) are simply going to be ineffective. One by one deportation is never going to be feasible. As long as the situation south of the border (and elsewhere in the world) is bad enough to be worth the legal risks, no wall or immigrant focused law is going to prevent the movement of labor into the United States. As this reality becomes clearer, other solutions will be sought.

2. Businesses are soft on opposing immigration regulations

While SHRM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushed their members hard to resist the use of the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program, the law came into effect with minimal fanfare for government contractors late last year. The voluntary program for non-contractor employers is adding 1,400 companies a week according to their website. With political pressure from consumers and politicians alike, businesses are tending to think of compliance strategies rather than fighting ones.

3. Businesses are part of the problem — and the solution

Someone is paying illegal immigrants, and they aren’t all people looking to mow their lawn or put a fence up. While many businesses probably don’t do it directly, I imagine someone is making a pretty good business of it. If you really want to dry up illegal immigration, you have to start with those jobs. That (in combination with economic improvements in Mexico and other countries) would go a long way to get people to immigrate back home without having to resort to mass deportation.

What do you think? Do you see more pressure for laws that will impact employers or do you think that it is still years off?