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Mandatory E-Verify Passes House Judiciary Committee; GOP Divisions Could Keep It from House Floor

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lamar smithYesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed Rep. Lamar Smith’s mandatory E-Verify bill on a party-line vote, and you can bet that the GOP leadership is sweating about this.

If Smith’s E-Verify plan is successful, it would devastate the agriculture industry, where undocumented immigrants make up 75% of the workforce.  Even Committee Republicans who voted for the bill yesterday admitted that E-Verify will hurt agriculture by driving much-needed immigrant workers away.  Growers have been hoping that a new guest worker program could ease some of this pain, and Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) tried to offer a guest worker bill as an amendment to E-Verify.  But Smith said that such an amendment “didn’t fit with the E-Verify bill,” according to National Journal Daily

Smith may agree to revisit the issue later, but the idea of a creating a brand new guest worker program with no protections for American or foreign workers is already drawing fire from workers’ advocates, as well as the far right, which simply doesn’t want to permit any foreign workers to enter the country.  All this controversy means that the guest worker bill is a long way from becoming law.

Committee Democrats have also exposed the fact that Republicans don’t actually seem to care whether E-Verify works or not.  House Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) offered an amendment to ensure that E-Verify improves on its 50% fail rate and actually identifies undocumented workers most of the time.  The amendment was rejected by Republicans, who are apparently more interested in simple mass deportation than a reasonable policy and a functioning database. 

As Frank Sharry, Director of America’s Voice Education Fund said:

Smith’s bill means the agriculture industry is facing an existential threat.  Small business owners have to be wondering why the ‘anti-regulation’ party is considering such a massive expansion of red tape and costly regulation.  Ideological conservatives are rallying against a new Big Government intrusion into their lives.  What’s worse, this program will cost Americans their jobs, and Committee Republicans were unwilling to support amendments to ensure that the program actually works as advertised or protects legal, American workers from losing their jobs due to government mistakes.  Finally, the Smith bill would turn our already chaotic and dysfunctional immigration system into more of a hot mess – driving many undocumented immigrants into the arms of unscrupulous employers and the cash economy, reducing tax payments and growing the deficit.