Border Wall or Mandatory E-Verify?

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.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar
    Bill Carrothers on

    There is a political Litmus Test for immigration. If you cannot figure out that a Green Card for an Immigrant means a Pink Slip for an American Worker, then you are probably an Obama Democrat. On the other hand, if you think that a wall will keep out illegal immigrants, and significantly reduce illegal immigration, then you are probably a Trump Republican. Either way, you lose, and the sending countries win. Instead, try just saying NO! No jobs, NO housing, No benefits of ANY kind unless paid for by the sending nations, and NO welcome signs. Just say NO to illegal drugs, and just say NO to immigration.

    • avatar

      So how many pink slips by your family were delivered to American workers when the came here?

      Hahahaha!!!! Let’s take what u said retroactively … Pack up n go back where u belong……

  2. avatar
    Roger Hornaday on

    This article talks about E verify as deterring the illegal immigration by removing the the employment incentive, but until the entitlement incentive is also removed, E verify will have very little effect on illegal immigration. The threat of the wall being built and deportation of those convicted of crimes has done much more to decrease the numbers of illegal immigrants entering the country than E verify, especially since sanctuary cities don’t use E verify and also since California, which is a magnet to illegal immigrants, has now chosen to become a sanctuary state. E verify and the wall must go hand in hand, along with enforcement of existing immigration laws before the illegal immigration problem can be solved and legal immigrants with work visas and low income American citizens can get their jobs back that are now being held by undocumented workers, in construction, packing industries, agricultural industry and landscaping, among others.

  3. avatar

    E-verify is more important then a border wall (which can be, and is, TUNNELED UNDER!)! WHY is E-VERIFY NOT BEING ACTED UPON WITH STAND-ALONE LEGISLATION? IT SHOULD PASS, RIGHT NOW! Take all of this money “appropriated” for a wall, and make a HACK-PROOF E-VERIFY SYSTEM! CUT OFF THE JOBS MAGNET WHILE IT STILL CAN BE!

  4. avatar

    The way to make E-Verify airtight is to use biometric markers.
    This is the idea floated for a new Visa Entry/Exit system.
    I had to have fingerprints, etc. done when I attained a Class B Commercial Driver’s License
    to comply with Federal Regulations.
    This should be applied to all workers.

  5. avatar

    They need to take there E-Verify and stick it . We the people want that wall built no matter what any one else want no wall. Then we can work on how the people coming in from mexico get here to work and not take jobs from the aMERICAN FOR CHEAPER LABOR , LIKE LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGES . And not obey the labor laws like all the other workers in America , I grew up on a farm I know how they pay there workers and how many hours they work there workers and do not pay any overtime and they should not be exempt from these labor laws and the use of child labors .

  6. avatar
    Robert Pavlick on

    The problem with using E-verify ONLY, is that the law is only as good as its enforcement and we already see how well THAT has worked !!!! Laws that are not enforced have “no teeth” and are totally ineffective. E-verify may very well be enforced under a Trump Administration, but who’s to say how well it would be enforced, if at all, under subsequent administrations? That is partly why we have over 12 million illegals in the first place.

    • avatar

      It would be a heck of a lot more effective if there were very stiff fines and a felony conviction WITH jail time for those who hire illegals or keep them on their payrolls. The punishment should be directly to the hiring person, the fines, substantial ones, applied to the owner of the business personally. (Stock holders should not be held financially liable for illegal behavior by personnel whom they have no control over. Employers who are ALSO stock holders can pay their fines using the value of OWNED stock, NOT “deferred” stock.)
      Until those who are directly hiring, permitting, are dealt with very harshly, the reward will outweigh the risk. That must be reversed.

      • avatar

        The current law provides for very stiff fines and felony convictions for repeat offenders. The problem is that evidence of KNOWINGLY hiring illegal workers must be proved. That’s hard to do without the testimony of the illegal workers, and that is unlikely with the paper audits – rather than worksite raids- started by Obama. But, with E-Verify it is easy to prove whether the employer has used the system.

  7. avatar

    We need them both and something to stop chain migration. Both methods are only half methods so one is not preferable over the other. But if I had to choose I would choose the wall as it will send a message to all that are here illegally that we mean business. And then turn ICE loose to do it’s job starting with sanctuary cities.

  8. avatar

    I know it may be difficult to get Congress off it’s *** and do some real work, with all Democrats want to do is bash our President and obstruct anything our Republicans do. It is well past time to secure our border and control who comes into our country. We must make e-verify a law that all employers must follow and those that don’t must be punished. We need both the Wall and e-verify to solve problems with cheap illegal labor stealing employment from American workers in the USA. We know ISIS is embedded in Mexico along with Al-Qaeda and other groups that wish to do us harm. The Wall is needed to protect our country from many dangers. This is not Mexico, this is America and time our tax money goes to helping Americans rather than paying dead beat workers that don’t have enough courage to challenge their own countries so that they can live a better life and the fruits of their labor goes to making life better for their population rather than to fill a few Executives pockets with coins gained off of the labor of their citizens. These border jumpers (illegal Aliens) must unite to make their countries a better place and a place where they can live their own dreams rather then coming to our country and stealing those dreams from our citizens. It has been happening for many years and must stop now !!!

    • avatar

      birthright citizenship is just as important as both of these points of interest. we NEED a law that gives citizenship to a child only if one of the parents is an american citizen, not to anyone born on our soil.

      • avatar

        You’re correct. Almost every nation that used to have birthright citizenship has changed it to one or both parents being a citizen. When you have a concept such as “birth tourism” it’s time to change things. Fly in here a week before and your kid is a citizen?

  9. avatar

    E-Verify is the most effective tool available. There is a reason the anti-American members of Congress have kept it from becoming mandatory since Congress promised it in 1986.

  10. avatar

    What is wrong with this??? EVERYTHING!! We already have illegal aliens crawling all over this country–build a wall to keep the vermin out and make E-verify mandatory with prison for the hiring party and the worker. One or the other, wall or E-verify will not work–we have to have BOTH!!!

  11. avatar

    The system needs to be overhauled , its corrupted by our political class and unscrupulous employers , we need both a reformed and improved e- verify and a border wall , if not we will be Mexico in a generation, greed and apathy are rampant , what has happened to the American spirit

  12. avatar

    Can you imagine your pest control expert trying to convince you that managing pests inside your home is better than preventing them from getting in your home in the first place? Step 1, get illegals out of America now. Step 2, keep them out with boarder security, the Wall. Step 3, prosecute anyone in America hiding, hiring, or other wise protecting illegals or over staying immigrants.

    • avatar

      We need to include public officials in those who are prosecuted for hiding or protecting those who are in the country illegally. A governor, mayor, police chief, or county sheriff who shields illegals is at least as guilty as an employer who knowingly hires a person here illegally. Jail and fine a few of them and we’ll see a marked drop in sanctuary policies.

  13. avatar
    Mark Gransden Sr on

    Do both the e-system and the wall. Adequate border security by patrol should be adequate.

    • avatar

      We need a wall because drug smugglers and those working under the table are not going to worry about e-verify. But we really have not tried e-verify on a widespread scale. Some states have but not nationwide. It’s a very cheap form of enforcement. A number comes back as valid or not. A wall will not stop visa overstays.

  14. avatar

    Even when a SS number is being used by two or more people, they will not allow the person who is able to prove they were the first and original owner to know who else is using it. This has led to numerous hardships for some people who cannot get things like loans or passports without a struggle. Our system at work protecting criminals at the expense of citizens.