Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772), a bipartisan bill that shuts off the jobs magnet that attracts so many illegal immigrants to the United States. The bill expands the E-Verify system and makes it mandatory for all U.S. employers. This will protect American jobs for citizens and legal immigrants. Congressman Smith was joined by 21 members in introducing the bill today.
Congressman Smith: "Twenty-two million Americans are still struggling to find full-time employment. Meanwhile, seven million people work in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers.
"Illegal workers compete with American workers for jobs and drive down their wages. The nationwide use of E-Verify could increase wages and open up millions of jobs for unemployed and underemployed Americans. E-Verify will help ensure that jobs are reserved for citizens and legal workers.
"E-Verify is easy to use and has proved effective at helping employers avoid illegal workers. It takes just a few minutes and immediately confirms 99.7% percent of work-eligible employees."
Americans overwhelmingly support making E-Verify mandatory. A 2011 Rasmussen poll found that 82% of likely voters think businesses should be required to use E-Verify.
Almost 450,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and an average of 1,600 new businesses sign up each week. Outside evaluations have found that the vast majority of employers using E-Verify believe it to be an effective and reliable tool for checking the legal status of their employees.
E-Verify allows employers to electronically verify that newly-hired employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Specifically, the Social Security numbers of new hires are checked against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records to eliminate fraudulent numbers and ensure that new hires are eligible to work.
E-Verify has received overwhelming bipartisan support since its creation as a pilot program in 1996. In 2008, the House passed a stand-alone 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.
Original cosponsors of the Legal Workforce Act include Reps. Goodlatte (R-Va.), Gowdy (R-S.C.), Bishop (R-Utah), Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Burgess (R-Texas), Calvert (R-Calif.), Chaffetz (R-Utah), DeFazio (D-Ore.), Farenthold (R-Texas), Forbes (R-Va.), Franks (R-Ariz.), Holding (R-N.C.), King (R-N.Y.), Labrador (R-Idaho), Lance (R-N.J.), Poe (R-Texas), Royce (R-Calif.), Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Stivers (R-Ohio), and Westmoreland (R-Ga.).
Summary of H.R. 1772
· Repeals I-9 System: Repeals the current paper-based I-9 system and replaces it with a completely electronic work eligibility check, bringing the process into the 21st century.
· Gradual Phase-In: Phases-in mandatory E-Verify participation for new hires in six month increments beginning on the date of enactment. Within six months of enactment, businesses having more than 10,000 employees are required to use E-Verify. Within 12 months of enactment, businesses having 500 to 9,999 employees are required to use E-Verify. Eighteen months after enactment, businesses having 20 to 499 employees must use E-Verify. And 24 months after enactment, businesses having 1 to 19 employees must use E-Verify.
· Agriculture: Requires that employees performing "agricultural labor or services" are only subject to an E-Verify check within 24 months of the date of enactment.
· States as Partners: Preempts duplicative state laws mandating E-Verify use but retains the ability of states and localities to condition business licenses on the requirement that the employer use E-Verify in good faith under federal law. In addition, the bill allows states to enforce the federal E-Verify requirement and incentives them to do so by letting them keep the fines they recover from employers who violate the law.
· Protects Against Identity Theft: The bill allows individuals to lock their Social Security number (SSN) so that it can't be used by another person to get a job. It also allows parents or legal guardians to lock the SSN of their minor child. And if a SSN shows unusual multiple use, DHS is required to lock the SSN and alert the owner that their personal information may have been compromised.
· Safe Harbor: Grants employers safe harbor from prosecution if they use the E-Verify program in good faith, and through no fault of theirs, receive an incorrect eligibility confirmation.