E-Verify Legislation Heats Up on Capitol Hill
House Republicans are set to advance legislation requiring all U.S. employers to check job applicants’ immigration status against an electronic database. Specifically, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to start a two-day markup on a measure (H.R. 3711) that would make mandatory the federal government’s voluntary E-Verify screening program for all new hires.
E-Verify is a voluntary internet based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of employees to legally work in the United States.
The E-Verify provisions are bundled with a politically controversial measure that would replace the current H-2A visa program for temporary farm laborers with one that would allow meat, poultry, pork, and dairy producers to hire guest workers who qualify for the visas. This aspect of the legislation is expected to generate the most controversy. In fact, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) was forced to postpone an Oct. 4 markup on the guest-worker legislation after an advocacy group waged a campaign against the bill in Florida, Texas, and Arizona districts represented by Republicans on the panel.
For years, House Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to pass free-standing legislation to make mandatory the E-Verify program, which has more than 500,000 voluntary participants among employers. In 2013, the committee reported legislation to require employers to use E-Verify, but a campaign by both conservative and liberal groups scuttled attempts to advance the bill on the floor.
In that year, the Democratic-controlled Senate included an E-Verify provision in
legislation that would have provided a pathway to permanent legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants. That bill died because House Republican leaders couldn’t find sufficient support in their rank-and-file for similar legislation.