|For Immediate Release
September 15, 2011
Contact: Jessica Baker, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Markup of H.R. 2885, the “Legal Workforce Act of 2011”
Chairman Smith: Twenty-three million Americans are unemployed or can’t find full-time work. At the same time, seven million people are working illegally. These jobs should go to American citizens and legal workers.
The unemployment rate in the black community is 17% and among Hispanics it’s 11%. Anyone who cares about helping unemployed Americans should care about opening up jobs for them.
E-Verify allows employers to electronically verify that newly-hired employees are authorized to work in the U.S.
The program is free, quick and easy to use. Nearly 300,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and over 1,000 new businesses sign up every week.
The American public overwhelmingly supports E-Verify. This year, a Rasmussen poll found that 82% of likely voters “think businesses should be required to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to determine if a potential employee is in the country legally.” Seventy-eight percent of black voters agreed, 72% of other minorities, primarily Hispanics, and 73% of Democrats. They know we should put the interests of American workers first.
E-Verify also has received bipartisan Congressional support. In 2008, the House passed a five-year extension of E-Verify by a vote of 407 – 2. And in 2009, the Senate passed a permanent E-Verify extension by voice vote.
A 2009 Westat report found that persons eligible to work receive immediate confirmation 99.5% of the time.
And U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ own evaluation found that only 2.6% of employees receive initial system mismatches. And most of them are found to be in the U.S. illegally.
The Legal Workforce Act could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring employers to use E-Verify. It makes no sense to rely on the paper-based, error-prone I-9 system when a successful, web-based program is available.
A few have claimed that a federal E-Verify requirement will cause job losses. Yes, E-Verify is a jobs killer, but only for illegal workers. For Americans and legal workers, it’s a jobs protector.
Today it takes an unemployed American nine months to find a job. With E-Verify, we can open up a new job in one to two minutes.
Critics cite a 2009 study regarding identity theft. However, its estimate was based entirely on speculation. The study even admits that “any estimate [of the level of identity theft] will be very imprecise.”
To the extent there is identity theft, H.R. 2885 contains several provisions that combat it.
Some opponents of E-Verify claim that the American agriculture industry will be harmed if farmers are required to use E-Verify. But the Legal Workforce Act gives ag employers three years to comply.
And E-Verify doesn’t apply to current seasonal agricultural workers, only future employees, so current seasonal ag workers can leave and return.
There is a need, however, for a legal foreign labor supply in the agriculture industry. The American Specialty Agriculture Act, which I have introduced, provides up to half a million visas for legal ag workers.
The business community has shown widespread support for E-Verify. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, the American Meat Institute, and the National Association of Homebuilders, among many others, support a requirement that all U.S. businesses use E-Verify.
They understand that when one employer undercuts others in the same industry by hiring illegal immigrant labor, which is often cheaper than legal labor, the entire industry is hurt.
Some assume that a federal E-Verify requirement will simply force illegal immigrants to begin working off the books. But this impugns the character of the overwhelming majority of U.S. employers who are law-abiding and who would like to hire legal workers.
The Congressional Budget Office made that same assumption in scoring a similar bill.
However, they didn’t take into account the taxes paid by those who fill jobs vacated by illegal immigrants, which is likely to be more than what illegal workers pay.
I understand why those who want amnesty oppose this bill. They want to legalize illegal immigrants, not encourage them to return home.
But amnesty prevents Americans from getting jobs, since millions of illegal immigrants will become eligible to work legally in the United States.
Instead of encouraging amnesty, we should end the incentives for illegal workers to come here in the first place. The biggest incentive for illegal immigration is jobs. E-Verify will reduce that jobs magnet and at the same time create more jobs for American workers.
Why would anyone oppose legislation that helps businesses follow the law and helps American workers get jobs?
I urge my colleagues to support the bill.