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J.D. Vance Is Right on E-Verify

Vance’s support for E-Verify will give him a leg up in the Ohio Senate race.

(By Wikimedia Commons)

J.D. Vance won Ohio's Republican Senate primary, in large part, by staking out populist stances that his more corporate-friendly rivals couldn't back. Consider Vance's proposal to require every employer to use E-Verify to screen out illegal immigrants—a policy that polls incredibly well with working Americans, but one that's anathema to Big Business.

Vance's proposed E-Verify mandate helped give him an edge over Josh Mandel, Matt Dolan, Mike Gibbons, and Jane Timken—and will help him expose his general election rival, Congressman Tim Ryan, as a paper tiger when it comes to standing up for workers. 


E-Verify is an online system run by the federal government that enables employers to confirm the immigration status of every person they hire. It is both easy to use and incredibly reliable, delivering results in as little as three seconds.

Yet just a small share of the nation's companies even bother to use E-Verify. It's no mystery why. Illegal workers are far less expensive to employ than American citizens. And since illegal immigrants can't avail themselves of basic legal protections, companies can subject them to atrocious working conditions and force them to work unreasonably long hours.

Aside from being grotesquely unfair to the illegal immigrants themselves, this situation also comes with serious costs for American workers. There are nearly 90,000 illegal immigrants living in Ohio alone. And this abundance of low-cost labor depresses both the wages and the employment prospects of native-born workers.

According to an analysis by Harvard economist George Borjas, illegal immigrants reduce the wages of native-born Americans by as much as $118 billion a year.

Making E-Verify mandatory for all employers is one of the most effective ways to address this crisis, as Vance rightly points out. If employers can no longer hire and exploit undocumented immigrants with impunity, then the demand for such workers will fall. This, in turn, removes the incentive for immigrants to enter the country illegally in the first place—creating more employment opportunities for native-born workers and legal immigrants.


This is precisely what has happened in states where E-Verify is currently mandatory. Just a year after Arizona implemented E-Verify requirements in 2007, the state's population of illegal immigrants had fallen by 17 percent. State-level E-Verify requirements have also been shown to reduce native-born unemployment rates.

Not to mention the fact that mandatory E-Verify is about as non-intrusive a reform as one could imagine. All it requires is that, before each new hire, businesses take a few seconds to make sure they aren't breaking the law.

Simple low-cost solutions of this sort are a rare thing in American politics. Especially when the problem at hand is as massive as the illegal-immigration crisis. Any candidate that is serious about halting the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States ought to come out strongly for mandatory E-Verify. 

The fact that Mandel, Dolan, Gibbons, and Timken never endorsed the policy—despite its commanding the support of a staggering 82 percent of Republicans—revealed something troubling about their commitment to defending workers. And voters noticed.

Vance will no doubt continue using his E-Verify proposal as a cudgel against Tim Ryan. The Youngstown-area Democrat portrays himself as an advocate for ordinary workers who've been hurt by outsourcing and corporate greed. Yet Ryan refuses to endorse mandatory E-Verify, even though 60 percent of registered Democrats, and 61 percent of independents, favor it.

Ohioans are struggling with inflation and negative real-wage growth. Vance's promotion of mandatory E-Verify—arguably the most pro-worker, pro-wage-growth policy coming out of Washington in decades—may help make him Ohio's next senator.