House Judiciary Committee Approves E-Verify Legislation
The House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary approved a bill on September 21, 2011, that would mandate E-Verify use by U.S. employers for all new employees. A date for consideration on the House floor has not yet been set. The bill, H.R. 2885, was introduced by Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Among other things, there reportedly was much discussion during markup of the bill about its potential effect on agricultural workers. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Cal.) said that an E-Verify mandate would “devastate the agricultural industry,” and that the issue should be dealt with “in a practical fashion.” However, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Cal.) offered an amendment that the committee passed, which closed a loophole that would have allowed agricultural employers of returning seasonal workers to be exempt. Rep. Berman said that would amount to a “laughable de facto amnesty,” and Rep. Melvin Watt (D-Cal.) agreed that it would be a “loophole big enough to drive freight trucks, airplanes, and locomotives — all filled with illegal workers — through.” Despite closing the loophole, the bill would still give agricultural employers three years to comply.
A provision to preempt states from mandating E-Verify survived. Rep. Smith argued that preemption “is consistent with a common-sense reading of the Constitution” and that “American businesses need one federal standard for E-Verify, not 50 or more laws.”
Rep. Smith also introduced a bill to replace the current H-2A agricultural worker program with a new one to be administered by the Department of Agriculture. H.R. 2847, or the American Specialty Agriculture Act, would establish a new attestation-based visa program for agricultural workers.