In its first step of a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, the House Judiciary Committee approved by a vote of 20-13 a bill which requires employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires through the E-Verify system. However, the bill is “vehemently” opposed by the Agriculture Workforce Coalition.
Created in 1996 and operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), E-Verify checks the social security numbers of newly hired employees against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records to help ensure that they 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, the House Judiciary Committee said in a statement.
Bill sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas) said that polls show that from 71% to 85% of voters “support Congress passing new legislation that strengthens the rules making it illegal for businesses in the U.S. to hire illegal immigrants.” He added that E-Verify receives the most public support of any proposed immigration form.
However, the coalition representing agricultural interests couldn’t disagree more, saying imposing mandatory E-verify without fixing the country’s broken immigration system “will sound the death knell for thousands of farming operations across the country.” AWC has consistently called for a comprehensive approach to addressing the current immigration flaws.
Agriculture faces unprecedented demographic challenges and relies heavily on foreign-born workers. The AWC said in a statement, “The economic impacts of this will spread far beyond the farm gate as Americans working in industry sectors both upstream and downstream of the farm will see their jobs threatened. Studies have shown that each of the 2 million hired farm employees supports two to three fulltime American jobs in the food processing, transportation, farm equipment, marketing, retail and other sectors.
“Mandatory E-Verify without workable labor solutions for agriculture puts these American jobs, and the economies of communities across the country in jeopardy,” AWC said.
AWC said the path forward is clear and should include a solution for agriculture that addresses both the current agricultural workforce and creates a new guest worker program to meet future needs and “only then implement a mandatory E-verify program.”