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It’s fair to ask employers to check job applicants’ immigration status

JEFF JACOBY seems to be confused about roles (“Employers are not immigration officers,” Op-ed, June 16). Employers who are required to check potential employees’ immigration status will not become immigration officers; they will be citizens. His free-market absolutism implies that one leaves one’s citizenship behind when entering the marketplace.

Our founders would be appalled by the suggestion; they thought it was reasonable to expect citizens to promote the common good. An employer mandate not to hire illegal immigrants would contribute to the common good by making it more likely that employees will be paid legitimate wages (at least the legal minimum wage), that state and national governments will receive withheld taxes (such as Social Security taxes), and that employees will have access to unemployment benefits.

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How many employers of illegal immigrants avoid all these by paying under the table? This harms both the workers, who do not receive fair wages and mandated benefits, and society. It probably also harms unemployed legal residents who might otherwise be employed.

The legislation does not negate the free market, but does prevent free-market absolutists from preying on easily intimidated illegal immigrants. It makes it more likely that employers will pay honest wages for honest labor.

However, there will be one category of people negatively affected: those who, in order to increase their profits, abuse undocumented workers by paying them poorly.

John E. Hill


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