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Chairman Smith Introduces Legal Workforce Act


Location: Washington, DC

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164), a bill that could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans and legal immigrants. The legislation improves the E-Verify system and makes it mandatory for all U.S. employers.

Chairman Smith: "With unemployment at 9%, jobs are scarce. Despite record unemployment, seven million people work in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers.

"E-Verify is a successful program to help ensure that jobs are reserved for citizens and legal workers. 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% percent of work-eligible employees. There is no other legislation that can be enacted that will create more jobs for American workers."

Americans overwhelmingly support making E-Verify mandatory. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 82% of likely voters think businesses should be required to use E-Verify.

E-Verify was created in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. It 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 records in order to eliminate fraudulent numbers and help ensure that new hires are genuinely eligible to work. The program quickly confirms 99.5% of work-eligible employees.

Today, over 250,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and an average of 1,300 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 has received overwhelming bipartisan support since its creation as a pilot program in 1996. It was extended in 2002, 2008, and 2010. 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 include Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), John Carter (R-Texas), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), Gary Miller (R-Calif.), Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), and Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.).

The Immigration Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing on H.R. 2164 on Wednesday, June 15, at 10:00 am.

Below is a summary of some of the major components in H.R. 2164.

Repeals I-9 System: Repeals the current paper-based I-9 system and replaces it with a completely electronic work eligibility check.

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 after enactment, businesses having 500 to 9,999 employees are required to use E-Verify. Within 18 months after enactment, businesses having 20 to 499 employees must use E-Verify. And within 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 36 months of the date of enactment. Under the bill, an individual engaged in seasonal agricultural employment is not considered a new hire if the individual starts work with an employer for whom they have previously worked.

Federal Preemption: Preempts state laws mandating E-Verify use for employment eligibility purposes 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 the federal law.

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.

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