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E-Verify Will Open Up Millions of Jobs

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Phyllis Schlafly is often right on many issues but when it comes to the Legal Workforce Act, she is wrong.

The Legal Workforce Act will open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring all U.S. employers to use the E-Verify program. E-Verify quickly identifies those working illegally in the United States and protects jobs for legal workers.

A federal requirement making E-Verify mandatory for all U.S. employers is essential to protecting jobs for American workers and reducing the jobs magnet that encourages illegal immigration. Requiring E-Verify on a state-by-state basis will just shift illegal workers around the country.

There are a number of reasons why we need the same E-Verify program for all U.S. employers.

Only 17 out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia have an E-Verify mandate in place. Unfortunately, states that currently have an E-Verify mandate only apply it in a limited way.

For example, Virginia’s mandate only applies to state agencies and contractors. Utah’s mandate only applies to state agencies and employers with 15 or more employees. And North Carolina’s E-Verify law only applies to state offices and agencies.

Only one of the five states with the most illegal immigrants, Florida, has an E-Verify law. But even in Florida, the law only applies to state agencies and contractors.

Many states are not enforcing their own E-Verify laws. Mississippi and Arizona fall into this category.

In fact, the Clarion Ledger reported that “the Legislature passed the Mississippi Employment Protection Act, also referred to as the E-Verify law, in 2008. It has taken effect in phases, based on company size . . . During a two-day immigration hearing at the Capitol this week, lawmakers heard there have been no investigations into whether companies are conducting the required checks.”

And more than three years after the Arizona E-Verify mandate was signed into law, a 2010 brief to the U.S. Supreme Court stated that to date “only three enforcement actions have been filed against Arizona employers.”

Some states with the largest illegal immigrant populations, such as California and New York, will almost certainly never require the use of E-Verify. This means employers will continue to be free to hire illegal workers.

So the only way for E-Verify to apply to all employers is to enact the Legal Workforce Act. Although the Legal Workforce Act preempts state E-Verify laws, it grants states and localities the right to issue or rescind business licenses based on the requirement that the employer use E-Verify as directed by federal law.

It puts in place one federal standard so businesses can spend their time creating jobs for Americans instead of complying with different E-Verify requirements in each different state and locality.

The Legal Workforce Act also makes it easier to enforce the law. Instead of federal officials having to conduct I-9 audits, they can simply check if the employer is using E-Verify. And since all the E-Verify, work authorization, and identity check document attestations are electronic, it takes less time and fewer resources for them to ensure employers are complying with the law.

With 24 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, the Legal Workforce Act will protect jobs for legal workers. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 82 percent of likely voters think businesses should be required to use E-Verify. Contrary to Ms. Schlafly’s claims, the bill enjoys broad support.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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