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How to curb illegal hiring? Mimic some characteristics of illegal immigration

Photo by jphilipg/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute that was funded by the European Union addresses the never-ending quandary over unauthorized workers, as much of an issue in Europe as it is in the United States.

Wherever unauthorized workers are hired, the draw of the underground economy is a leading driver of illegal immigration, the report notes.

These workers are not only cheaper to hire, but are also a boon to employers because they come with "no strings attached," providing employers with greater flexibility that makes running a business easier.

Now for the question that has stumped political leaders for decades: What, if anything, can be done about it? From the report:

First, in order to bring employers who would have otherwise hired illegally into legal hiring, legal systems would have to mimic at least some of the characteristics of illegal migration.

This would include targeted recruitment of foreign workers, a flexible volume of workers that can be adjusted to demand, a flexible length of stay, and simplified regulatory requirements that would be attractive to employers, according to the report's recommendations.

As a means of curbing unauthorized employment, some states and cities have resorted instead to punitive measures that would require employers to use E-Verify, a federal online program that allows employers to check their hires' authorization to work and is otherwise voluntary.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law requiring businesses to confirm workers' eligibility with E-Verify, and to revoke the licenses of businesses that deliberately hire unauthorized workers.