Washington, D.C. -- The House Judiciary Committee today approved the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772) in a vote of 22-9. This bipartisan bill discourages illegal immigration by ensuring jobs are only made available to those authorized to work in the U.S. Specifically, the bill requires employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires though the E-Verify system. The Legal Workforce Act is one of several bills the House Judiciary Committee has introduced and approved to help address various issues within our immigration system.
E-Verify, created in 1996 and operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is a web-based program that checks the Social Security numbers or alien identification numbers of new hires 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 in the U.S. The program quickly confirms 99.7% of work-eligible employees and takes less than two minutes to use. Today, over 450,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify. 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.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chief sponsor of the Legal Workforce Act, praised today's Committee vote.
Chairman Goodlatte: "Expanding E-Verify nationwide is a critical component to the interior enforcement of our immigration laws and will help maintain the integrity of our immigration system for the years ahead. This web-based program takes less than two minutes to use and is easier than completing a purchase on Amazon or some other online shopping website. By requiring all U.S. employers to use this successful program, we will discourage illegal immigration and protect jobs for legal workers.
"In contrast to the 1986 immigration law, the Legal Workforce Act provides a tangible way to make sure our laws are enforced. Under the Legal Workforce Act, present and future administrations will no longer be able to turnoff immigration enforcement efforts unilaterally. Instead, the bill ensures that where the federal government fails to act, the states can pick up the slack by empowering them to help enforce the law."
Congressman Smith: "Twenty-two million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, seven million people work in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to American citizens and legal workers.
"The Center for Immigration Studies reports that illegal immigration reduces the wages of American workers by $100 billion each year. The Legal Workforce Act protects wages and preserves scarce jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring employers to use E-Verify.
"The E-Verify system is quick and effective, confirming 99.7% of work-eligible employees. This bill also reduces illegal immigration by shutting off the jobs magnet that draws millions of illegal workers to the U.S. The nationwide use of E-Verify will help address the flow of illegal immigration by ensuring that employers hire legal workers."
Components of the Legal Workforce Act:
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 the federal law. In addition, the bill allows states to enforce the federal E-Verify requirement and incentivizes 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, the Department of Homeland Security is required to lock the SSN and alert the owner that their personal information may have been compromised.
Safe Harbor: Grants employers a 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.