By Representative Lamar Smith
Last months jobs report brings bad news to American families across the United States. Under the Obama administrations watch, the unemployment rate has hit 8.2% and is even worse for American minorities. Hispanic unemployment has risen to 11% and has jumped to nearly 14% for black Americans.
Despite this bad news, there is also good news: Congress and the Obama administration have the opportunity to come together and enact a bill that could open up countless jobs for unemployed American minorities, the Legal Workforce Act. This bill would require all U.S. employers to use the E-Verify program and is one of the fastest ways to help unemployed Americans of all races and backgrounds get back on the payroll to earn a living for themselves and their families.
E-Verify is a web-based program that quickly identifies individuals working illegally in the U.S. and protects jobs for legal workers. This common sense program doesnt ask race or ethnicity. It merely checks the Social Security numbers of new hires to ensure they are authorized to work here.
The "E" in E-Verify could just as well stand for "easy" and "effective." It takes about a minute to use per newly hired employee and immediately confirms 99.5% percent of work-eligible employees. Since there are currently seven million illegal immigrants in the workforce, we could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify.
Part of the success of E-Verify is that participating employers are happy with the results since it provides American employers who want to do the right thing with an easy way to do so. Even though E-Verify is not mandatory, many businesses voluntarily use the program. Nearly 375,000 American employers use E-Verify and another 2,200 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 recently received an exceptionally high overall customer satisfaction score - 82 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index scale. That is well above the overall federal governments score of 69.
The public also supports E-Verify. A new Pulse Opinion Research poll again confirms that the American people from all political affiliations and races overwhelmingly support the use of E-Verify.
The poll found that 78% of likely voters favor mandating that all employers electronically verify the immigration status of their workers. Among those who expressed an opinion, 94% of Republicans, 84% of Independents, 81% of Democrats, and 88% of moderates of all parties favor requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify. And 81% of Black Americans and 76% of other minorities, including Hispanic and Asian Americans, agreed. With these polling numbers, an E-Verify expansion is arguably one of the most popular and nonpartisan ways to create new jobs.
The facts show E-Verify and other worksite enforcement activities actually benefit minority workers by opening up jobs, increasing wages, and reducing job competition by reducing an illegal workforce.
For example, after illegal workers are arrested and detained during Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite enforcement actions, many businesses replace them with American minorities.
This was true when Georgias Crider Inc. lost over 600 illegal workers after an ICE worksite enforcement action. The company increased wages a dollar an hour and attracted legal workers, primarily black Americans from the local community. And there are similar stories all over the United States and the results are the same. Enforce immigration laws and open up jobs for unemployed Americans.
For the past three years, American minorities have suffered under President Obamas failed economic policies. While the Administrations policies have resulted in more spending and debt, they have produced fewer jobs. Its past time for the Administration to work with Congress on a solution that actually works: E-Verify. We should expand this program now so that future jobs reports bring good news to American households.
Rep. LamarSmith (R-Texas) is Chairman of House Judiciary Committee.