For the fourth time since 2011, the House Judiciary Committee passed a mandatory E-Verify bill. None of the previous bills reached the full House for a floor vote. Then-Speaker John Boehner and current Speaker Paul Ryan, immigration advocates, wanted to protect big business interests and to insure that low-paid illegal immigrants remained readily available, especially to the agriculture industry.
But a new wrinkle has been added to the E-Verify drama, and helps its chances to finally pass. At the same time that the Legal Workforce Act passed committee and mandated E-Verify, the Ag Act, a bill creates the new H-2C visa to replace the H-2A, and would allow agriculture as well as other related food industries industry to import hundreds of thousands of workers, also got committee approval.
The twist is that if the ag industry wants the H-2C to go into effect, it must throw its support behind E-Verify. A last minute amendment to the Ag Act language states that the H-2C cannot go into effect until E-Verify is implemented.
Employers have to step up, and through their hiring policies, protect American workers. To date, especially in ag and food industries, too many employers have put profit ahead of the common good. After the two bills passed, if ag wants its new visa, it’s going to have to give something in return—E-Verify support.
Congressional E-Verify failures are increasingly unpopular among Americans. In September, the Washington Post polled random individuals and asked: “Do you support or oppose requiring employers to verify that all new hires are living in the U.S. legally?” The resounding “yes” responses: among registered voters, 82 percent; among all adults, 79 percent; and among Hispanics, 61 percent.
With E-Verify, employers can no longer accept fraudulent I-9 forms or feign ignorance about their employees’ immigration status. Significant fines and the threat of imprisonment should be considered for repeat offending employers.
If employers need labor, the H-2C or other legal employment-based visas can provide it. E-Verify won’t totally end illegal immigration, but it will dramatically slow illegal crossings and deter hiring aliens.