If Newt Gingrich is elected president, he has said he would create a new guest worker program, reform the government's current e-verify system and maybe even outsource immigration status checks to credit card companies.
"We'd be far better off to outsource e-verify to American Express, MasterCard or Visa, because they actually know how to run a program like that without massive fraud," said Gingrich last September.
Credit card companies playing a part in verifying immigration status and employment eligibility may not be as odd as it sounds.
"I think he's definitely on to something," said Julie McNelley, research director for the Aite Group, a research and advisory firm that addresses the impact of business technology and regulation on the financial services industry, praising some aspects of Gingrich's proposal.
But when it comes to the initial verification of identify, "I don't think that outsourcing it to private industry makes a whole lot of sense because the government source data is the best data available for this," said McNelley.
Gingrich's other immigration proposal would streamline the application process for H1B visas, which allow U.S. employers to hire foreign workers temporarily in specialized occupations. Credit card companies use behavior-tracking software to track credit card purchases, and in Gingrich's plan, that same software could be used to analyze behavioral patterns and detect when someone is improperly using a visa.
"I think what Newt Gingrich is offering is that this time there should be an effective system run by the private sector because the government has not been reliable in partnering with the private sector in issuing H1b visas," said Kerry Fields, a professor of clinical finance and business economics at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.
The current H1b visa application is long and arduous, and if skilled workers can't obtain those temporary visas, they'll take their expertise to foreign countries, said Fields. "Industries are suffering greatly in the United States, because the U.S. government cannot well-administer the [H1B] visa program."