E-Verify saves jobs for American workers

The labor participation rate is at a 40 year low. Twenty million Americans are unemployed or under employed. Meanwhile, millions of people continue to be hired who are not eligible to work in the United States. These jobs should go to American citizens and legal immigrants.

The Legal Workforce Act turns off the jobs magnet that induces so many illegal immigrants to enter the United States. This bill, which I’ve introduced with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteDems try to end hearing on bias against conservatives in tech Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page gets closed-door grilling from House Republicans 5 takeaways from wild hearing with controversial FBI agent MORE (R-Va.) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), expands the E-Verify system and applies it to all U.S. employers.

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Illegal immigrants take jobs from American workers and depress their wages, according to nearly all objective studies on the subject. For example, illegal immigration reduces the wages of American workers by $100 billion per year with unskilled workers hit the hardest.

We should do all we can to protect the jobs and wages of hard-working Americans and legal immigrants.

The Legal Workforce Act opens up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring employers to use E-Verify. The bill creates a fully electronic employment eligibility verification system.

The E-Verify system is quick and effective, confirming 99 percent of work-eligible employees (source: USCIS). Over 740,000 businesses voluntarily use E-Verify and an average of 1,500 new employers sign up for it each week. One-third of American jobs are now protected by E-Verify.

And the program is free and easy to use. In fact, E-Verify is available for use on smart phones and takes about two minutes.

Individuals provide their Social Security Number when they visit a doctor, open a bank account, or buy a home. It makes sense that businesses be able to check the Social Security Number of prospective employees to ensure they have a legal workforce.

Under the Legal Workforce Act, employers use E-Verify to check the work eligibility of new hires. And it allows employers to voluntarily check their current workforce if done in a non-discriminatory manner.

The verification requirement is phased-in and the length of time depends on the size of the employer’s business. Smaller businesses have two years to implement E-Verify and agricultural businesses have two-and-a-half years.

The legislation gives employers a “safe harbor” so they cannot be held liable if they use the system in good faith.

Penalties are increased on employers who knowingly violate the requirements of E-Verify and criminal penalties are imposed on employers and employees who engage in or facilitate identity theft.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are given the ability to block Social Security Numbers that have been misused in order to protect identities. 

The bill also allows individuals to lock their own Social Security Number so that it cannot be used by others to verify work eligibility.  And the legislation enables parents to lock the Social Security Number of a minor child to prevent identity theft. 

If a Social Security Number shows an unusual amount of multiple uses, the Social Security Administration locks the number for employment verification purposes and notifies the owner that their personal information may have been compromised.

Importantly, the American people like E-Verify. A September 2017 Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 82 percent of voters favor requiring business owners to check the immigration status of employees they hire. E-Verify receives the most public support of any proposed immigration reform.

The Legal Workforce Act even has the backing of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and immigration enforcement groups, including NumbersUSA.

This legislation offers a common sense approach that discourages illegal immigration and saves jobs for legal workers. It deserves the enthusiastic support of anyone who wants to put the interests of millions of American workers first.  

Congressman Smith represents the 21st District of Texas. He serves as chairman of the House Science, Space, & Technology Committee, is also a member of the Committee on Homeland Security, and is a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.