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Mandatory E-Verify Passes House Judiciary Committee Hurdle, But Will it Ever Go to the House Floor?

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Why Would Speaker Boehner Advance a Bill that Decimates Agriculture, Burdens Small Business, Divides the Right and Makes a Dysfunctional Immigration System Even Worse?

Yesterday’s party-line passage of Rep. Lamar Smith’s mandatory E-Verify bill in the House Judiciary Committee does nothing to relieve Republican leadership’s heartburn over mandatory E-Verify, which we wrote about yesterday.

If Smith’s E-Verify plan is successful it would devastate the agriculture industry, where undocumented immigrants make up 75 percent of the workforce.  Although Smith’s bill had special rules for agriculture employers that gave them safe harbor to continue to employ some undocumented immigrants, Committee Democrats exposed the Republicans’ hypocrisy in an amendment by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA).  The Berman amendment eliminated the agriculture “returning worker” exemption to E-Verify, and passed with support from a number of Committee Republicans.  As National Journal Daily noted, “the move makes it all but impossible for the E-Verify bill to make its way through the Senate, even if House leaders muster the votes to pass it.” 

Even Committee Republicans admitted yesterday that the E-Verify bill will hurt agriculture, but they still voted for it.  Growers had been hoping that a new guest worker program would ease some of their pain from the self-inflicted E-Verify wound.  Rep. Dan Lungren tried to offer his guest worker bill as an amendment to E-Verify but was “rebuffed by Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and committee Democrats, who said that it 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 also exposed the fact that Republicans don’t seem to care whether E-Verify does what it is supposed to do.  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 a messy crackdown than a workable database. 

According to Frank Sharry of America’s Voice Education Fund, “If mandatory E-Verify moves forward, expect the fissures and dissension within different sectors of the GOP to explode into full view.  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.  Expect this show to go from bad to worse.”

America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.