The House Judiciary Committee is set to debate the Legal Workforce Act, a bill proposing all U.S. businesses be required to use the federal E-Verify system to ensure only citizens or immigrants who have a work visa are employed in the United States.
Committee chairman Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas and who is the bill’s sponsor, is a member of the House’s Reclaim American Jobs Caucus. The caucus’ stated mission is to draw attention to the link between illegal immigration and unemployment, and on its web page cites a statistic that an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants are in the current U.S. workforce, while 15 million American citizens are unemployed. The group describes E-Verify as a key measure to ensure illegal immigrants do not take jobs from citizens.
The bill’s opponents, including President Barack Obama, argue that the E-Verify system is unreliable and that mandated participation would make large-scale immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented workers already integrated into the country’s social and economic fabric, more difficult to institute.
“If your answer is to enforce a dysfunctional system, you’re going to have problems,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, a Democrat on the judiciary committee, told the Washington Times.
Some states and municipalities have already passed E-Verify laws. San Bernardino County, California, is considering an ordinance requiring all food industry employers to use the database, while the state’s farmers have said mandated use of E-Verify would cripple the agriculture sector’s workforce.