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“Verbal Brawl” Erupts at House E-Verify Briefing

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lamar smith e-verifyWith all that’s been happening with the new immigration law in Alabama, it’s been hard to remember that there are, in fact, other balls still in the air re: immigration.

Take, for example, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)’s  mandatory E-Verify bill, passed through the House Judiciary Committee last month and lingering in the House ever since.  For those who don’t remember, E-Verify is the government database of names that employers would have use to ensure all new hires are documented.  In a post-immigration reform world where we had a legalized agricultural workforce, E-Verify might work; right now, however, its error rate threatens to put hundreds of thousands of Americans out of a job while devastating the U.S. agricultural industry.

Yesterday, a panel of speakers came to Capitol Hill to brief staffers on the bill, a “usually staid” kind of event “with representatives from advocacy groups offering perspective for legislative aides boning up on the issue du jour.”

Things got a bit testier once the panel ended and Andrea Loving, an aide to House Judiciary Committee chairman Smith, tried to “ambush” the speakers, “who had just spent half an hour trashing the bill she helped write,” according to National Journal’s Fawn Johnson.

Johnson relates the episode:

“None of you came to see me,” [Loving] said, obviously irritated, adding that the panelists misstated the facts about the E-Verify bill…

Arguments descended into chaos on Monday after Loving identified herself. (Read every quote in this article as a low-level yell.)

“Read the bill,” Loving told them.

“I wholeheartedly agree. Read the bill,” said David Burton, general counsel of the National Small Business Association, who earlier characterized the bill’s punitive measures as “off the charts nuts.”

“You don’t understand it,” Loving retorted.

“I’m sorry you introduced a bill that will do nothing to stem the tide of illegal immigration,” said Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty, a watchdog group that tracks small-business regulations.

Philip Wolgin, an immigration-policy analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress, recited a litany of statistics about delays that bona fide workers whose initial checks deem them unauthorized would face. Loving said the bill has built-in protections for those workers.

Now it was Competitive Enterprise Institute policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh’s turn. “When reality and the government collide, usually reality wins,” he said.

From Johnson’s account, it doesn’t seem as if Loving, or any the supporter of E-Verify at the hearing, walked away much convinced about the pitfalls of the bill.  That’s too bad; E-Verify, once thought to have enough supporters that it would sail right through the House, has been so thoroughly panned lately that it’s still waiting for floor time.  At last count, it’s been opposed by Democratic leaders, business interests, labor groups, libertarians, even Tea Party conservatives and the GOP 2012 contenders.  Word is really getting out that its bureaucratic flaws would actually cost many legal American workers and U.S. citizens their jobs during a bad economy, and all kinds of strange bedfellows are coming together to try and kill the bill.  Rep. Lamar Smith, and holdouts like Andrea Loving, should listen.

For more about E-Verify, check out our fact sheet.