Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 3711).

Chairman Goodlatte: The American people want our immigration laws to be enforced.  In the past, they were promised tougher enforcement in exchange for the legalization of those unlawfully in the U.S.  But Administrations never kept these promises, and today we are left with a broken immigration system.

One way to make sure we discourage illegal immigration in the future is to prevent unlawful immigrants from getting jobs in the U.S.  Requiring the use of E-Verify by all employers across the country will help do just that.  The web-based program is a reliable and fast way for employers to electronically check the work eligibility of newly-hired employees.

H.R. 3711, the Legal Workforce Act, builds on E-Verify’s success and finally implements one part of the strong enforcement that was promised to the American people many years ago.  The Legal Workforce Act does not simply leave enforcement up to the Federal government.  In fact, it actually empowers States to help enforce the E-Verify requirement, ensuring that we do not continue the mistakes of the past where a President can turn off Federal enforcement efforts unilaterally.

Over 740,000 employers are currently signed up to use E-Verify.  It is easy for employers to use, and it is effective.  In fact, E-Verify quickly confirms work eligible employees nearly 99 percent of the time.

But the current system is not perfect.  For instance, in cases of identity theft when an individual submits stolen identity documents and information, E-Verify may confirm the work eligibility of that individual.  This happens because E-Verify uses a social security number and certain other corresponding identifying information, such as the name and date of birth of an individual, to determine if a person submitting the social security number is work eligible.  Thus, if an individual uses a stolen social security number and the real name corresponding with that social security number, a false positive result could occur.

The Legal Workforce Act addresses identity theft in several ways.  First, it requires notification to the rightful owner of a social security number whenever that number is submitted to E-Verify in a manner indicating a pattern of unusual multiple use.  The rightful owner of the social security number will know that his or her number may have been compromised. And once they confirm this, the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration must lock that social security number so no one else can use it for employment eligibility purposes.

Among other things, the bill also creates a program through which parents or legal guardians can lock the social security numbers of their minor children for work eligibility purposes.  This is to combat the rise in the number of thefts of children’s identities.

The bill phases in E-Verify use in 6-month increments beginning with the largest U.S. businesses, raises penalties for employers who do not use E-Verify according to the requirements, allows employers to use E-Verify prior to the date they hire an employee, and provides meaningful safe harbors for employers who use the system in good faith.

I understand that some in the agricultural industry have concerns about the impact of mandatory E-Verify on the agricultural workforce.  That is why the Legal Workforce Act and the Agricultural Guestworker Act will both be marked up today.  I have been, and remain committed to moving such agricultural guestworker reform through this Committee.

Unfortunately past Presidents have tied our hands by refusing to enforce immigration laws.  The current Administration has done the opposite, and we must provide this President with the additional legislative tools he needs in order to effectively control illegal immigration.

At the same time, we must prevent any subsequent Administration from again stopping immigration enforcement mechanisms.  Requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify is one way to do so.

H.R. 3711 balances the needs of the American people regarding immigration enforcement with the needs of the business community regarding a fair and workable electronic employment verification system.

I urge my colleagues to support the bill today.

And I yield back the balance of my time.

For more on the Legal Workforce Act, click here.