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Public Statements

Thousand Oaks Acorn - Act Ensures Jobs are Filled by Legal Workers

Op-Ed

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By Representative Elton Gallegly

Ventura County's unemployment rate shot up from 9.5 percent in May to 10.3 percent in June. Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped slightly in July, but only because many unemployed workers stopped looking for work.

Congress can free up millions of jobs for American workers simply by passing the Legal Workforce Act. The act would make it mandatory for all employers to use E-Verify, an easy-to-use, accurate, computer-based, employee verification system that ensures employees have a legal right to work in the United States.

More than 7 million illegal immigrants take American jobs. Under the act, many of those 7 million jobs will become available to American workers when E-Verify is fully implemented in two years.

What other jobs program can guarantee millions of jobs for Americans in two years? There is a clear need to pass the Legal Workforce Act now.

The U.S. unemployment rate has hovered at or above 9 percent for the past 25 months, topping 8 percent for the last 30 months, the longest streak since the 1930s.

The myth that illegal immigrants only work jobs American workers won't work is just that -- a myth. Recent studies estimate that 20 percent of cooks, 25 percent of construction workers, 22 percent of housekeeping personnel and 25 percent of groundskeepers are illegal immigrants.

In addition, 40 percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstays, many of whom take high-end jobs from Americans.

When fast-food company Chipotle was audited and hundreds of its illegal workers fired, American citizens lined up the next day for a chance at those jobs.

Fifteen years ago, the task force I chaired recommended including E-Verify, then called the Basic Pilot Program, in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. It was a voluntary program. I have been working ever since to make it mandatory.

Making E-Verify mandatory will remove the primary factor that entices people to come and stay here illegally -- the ability to take an American job.

When companies like Chipotle are audited and its illegal workers fired, they won't be able to cross the street and take a job from another American worker.

Mandatory E-Verify also will deter those who enter the United States on temporary visas but never leave.

E-Verify simply matches a person's name, Social Security number and birth date against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security databases. Its accuracy rate is far superior to the I-9 forms that currently are used to check eligibility. It lowers costs for employers, and it's race neutral.

U.S. Customs and Immigration Services data from last year show that 98.3 percent of employees were confirmed as work-authorized instantly or within 24 hours of using E-Verify. A 2009 report by research firm Westat found that those eligible to work are immediately confirmed 99.5 percent of the time.

E-Verify is free, very accurate and reduces paperwork for American businesses.

Making it mandatory would discourage illegal immigration and open up millions of jobs for American workers.

The time to make E-Verify mandatory is now.


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