|For Immediate Release
June 15, 2011
Contact: Jessica Baker, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Member Lamar Smith
Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement
Hearing on the H.R. 2164, “The Legal Workforce Act”
Chairman Smith: The Legal Workforce Act will open up jobs for millions of unemployed Americans. With unemployment at 9%, jobs are scarce, especially for low-skilled Americans.
Twenty-four million Americans are unemployed or have given up looking for work. Yet according to the Pew Hispanic Center, seven million people are working in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers.
The E-Verify system allows Social Security numbers and alien identification numbers of new hires to be checked against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. This will help employers determine who is eligible to work in the U.S. The program is free, quick and easy to use.
You have to show your Social Security Number to visit the doctor, go to the bank, or buy a home. It makes sense that businesses would use the same identification to ensure they have a legal workforce by checking the legal status of their employees.
The “E” in E-Verify could just as well stand for “easy” and “effective.” It takes just a few minutes to use and easily confirms 99.5% of work-eligible employees.
The Legal Workforce Act requires that all U.S. employers use E-Verify to check the work eligibility of new hires in the U.S.
H.R. 2164 balances immigration enforcement priorities and legitimate employer concerns. It gives employers a workable system under which they cannot be held liable if they use the system in good faith.
The bill preempts State E-Verify laws but respects States’ and localities’ inherent authority to condition business license issuance and maintenance on compliance with the federal E-Verify mandate.
The Legal Workforce Act increases penalties on employers who knowingly violate the requirements of E-Verify. It creates a fully electronic employment eligibility verification system. And it allows employers to voluntarily check their current workforce if done in a non-discriminatory manner.
Furthermore, the Legal Workforce Act gives USCIS additional tools to help prevent identity theft. For example, the bill requires DHS to allow individuals to “lock” their own Social Security number so that it cannot be used by imposters to verify work eligibility.
And it requires USCIS to “lock” the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or Social Security Number of non-U.S. citizens who are deported, are voluntarily returned, voluntarily depart, or whose work authorization expires so that no one can get a job using those same numbers. It also imposes criminal penalties on employers and employees who engage in or facilitate identity theft.
Studies by Westat and USCIS show that E-Verify’s work eligibility confirmation rates continue to improve as the system is upgraded.
Last year’s USCIS data shows that 98.3% percent of employees were confirmed as work authorized within 24 hours. And a 2009 Westat report found that those eligible to work are immediately confirmed 99.5% of the time.
And, importantly, the American people support E-Verify. A recent 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.”
Unfortunately, many states do not enforce their own E-Verify laws and others only apply E-Verify in a very limited way. The Legal Workforce Act will help ensure that employers from every state are on equal footing when it comes to hiring employees.
This bill could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans.