Senate panel rejects E-Verify changes

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday rejected a proposal requiring the government to implement the E-Verify program to combat illegal immigration 18 months after enactment of immigration reform.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) joined two Republican members of the Gang of Eight, Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and 10 Democrats to defeat the amendment.

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Republicans who voted for the proposal argued that E-Verify is an important catchall enforcement program to cover gaps in border security and visa tracking.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel and sponsor of the amendment, complained the comprehensive immigration reform bill does not make the E-Verify program mandatory for years.

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, said an 18-month timeline for implementing the E-Verify program is unworkable.

“We all want E-Verify to work as quickly as possible. The problem is, it would be virtually impossible to have it work in 18 months. The system is going to have to add in 5 million employers because, as we all know, it is not mandatory right now,” said Schumer. “Right now it can handle about 180,000 registrations a year, so you can imagine the burden of 5 million.”

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to verify the legal status and work eligibility of prospective employees.

The Judiciary panel also rejected a Grassley amendment to delay the preemption of state and local laws to enforce employment eligibility verification until all employers are required to use the national E-Verify system.