LIRS and a diverse coalition including faith-based, immigration rights, conservative, and libertarian groups, have been fighting to oppose the Legal Workforce Act, legislation that would require all employers in the United States to use E-Verify, a government program that is currently voluntary, to determine if an employee has the proper paperwork to work in the United States.
Yesterday, September 22, the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill and it may now be taken up by the full House of Representatives for a vote.
Throughout the markup, Democrats continually returned to the observation that mandating E-Verify will not fix our broken immigration system without comprehensive immigration reform. Representative Conyers (D-MI-14) observed that, without immigration reform, mandating E-Verify would only serve to further advance the creation of a shadow workforce as the bill forces more employees to work off the books.
Democrats also repeatedly voiced concerns that the bill would result in lost jobs for hundreds of thousands of American citizens who would be incorrectly flagged as unauthorized to work. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-16) noted that naturalized citizens are more at risk of being forced out of their jobs because of higher error rates. Despite several amendments designed to reduce this discriminatory issues, none of the amendments were adopted.
One of the interesting moments in the marathon markup was the consideration of an amendment by Representative Howard Berman (D-CA-28) to close a loophole in the bill that would allow agricultural employers to re-hire seasonal farmworkers without requiring them to use E-Verify. Congressman Berman and other Democrats pointed to the hypocrisy of the bill’s supposed goal of enforcing immigration law while “looking the other way” and allowing the U.S. agricultural industry to continue hiring large numbers of undocumented workers. Some called it hypocrisy to oppose bills like the DREAM Act because it’s “amnesty” while at the same time allowing an industry with a high percentage of undocumented workers to avoid federally mandated employment checks. In addition, the loophole could have encouraged some employers to reject U.S. citizens and legal immigrants in favor of undocumented workers. The amendment ultimately gained bipartisan support and was adopted.
Voice your support for a compassionate approach to immigration reform by visiting the LIRS Action Center today.