Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Introduction of the Legal Workforce Act of 2011

Today, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the Legal Workforce Act of 2011 that would dramatically expand and make mandatory a government internet-based work authorization system, E-Verify, on all U.S. employers. Below is a statement by Angela Maria Kelley, CAP’s Vice-President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy.

"Co-sponsors of the Legal Workforce Act of 2011 have hit the trifecta in counterproductive policy-making by pushing a program that grows the deficit, breaks the back of small business, and fails to solve the problem. The bill, which mandates a massive verification system, is the latest shiny object latched onto by immigration restrictionists in support of their mass deportation delusions. Eschewing reality—dealing realistically with undocumented workers —in pursuit of this fantasy, however, would come at a severe cost to the nation’s economy.

Mandating a fundamentally flawed E-Verify system without providing the foundation for a legal workforce will cost the federal government billions of dollars in lost revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars to implement. The Congressional Budget Office scored a similar bill at a whopping $17.3 billion dollar hit to revenues. The Department of Homeland Security estimated that operations costs would run as high as $838 million over four years, a figure the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office deemed low and described as “minimally credible.”

Worse still, it will cost small businesses an estimated $2.6 billion to comply with the bill’s unfunded mandate, and will impose a jobs tax on millions of ordinary Americans who have to comply with the new rules. In addition to squeezing small businesses and Americans seeking work, close to 800,000 legal American workers will lose their jobs because of system errors. Adding insult to injury, E-Verify has a poor track record of actually catching the undocumented. More than half of all undocumented workers (54 percent) will continue working without a problem. Far from achieving the restrictionist goal of kicking out all unauthorized immigrants, the remaining 46 percent will be pushed into the informal economy, where their economic contributions will not end up in the government’s coffers.

The country is in a weakened economic state, yet lawmakers blithely break the piggy banks of American workers and small businesses in pursuit of flawed deportation-centric measures. Policymakers interested in generating revenue and creating a legal workforce should offer proposals requiring undocumented immigrants to register, pay a fine, and become full Americans. Only those building blocks will create a solid foundation for a workable E-Verify system."

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all.

The Immigration Policy Center also weighed in on the Legal Workforce Act:

"On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement will hold a hearing on the “Legal Workforce Act,” another enforcement-only bill introduced today by Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). The bill would make the electronic employment verification system “E-Verify” mandatory for all employers within two years (three for agriculture). Much like the other hearings conducted by the Subcommittee this year, Wednesday’s hearing is likely to promote tougher enforcement and more deportations as the solution to immigration reform, rather than offer a thoughtful analysis of what must be done to create an effective immigration system that stimulates our economy and supports workers and businesses.

E-Verify is a web-based technology that allows employers to check federal databases to determine whether their employees—U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and other foreign-born workers—are authorized to work in the U.S. While USCIS has made significant improvements in E-Verify, many problems still exist. An independent evaluation found that E-Verify is unable to identify unauthorized workers in half of the cases. At a time when the U.S. needs to stimulate its economy and create jobs, mandatory E-Verify will impose additional regulations and costs on businesses, and employers will have to fire U.S. citizens who are erroneously indentified as unauthorized to work.

Rather than looking for ways to stimulate the economy, proponents of mandatory E-Verify will shrink federal and state economies by driving workers who contribute through their tax contributions and purchasing power further underground. Mandatory E-Verify will not resolve the problem of illegal immigration; it will only exacerbate the problems we have created by failing to deal with immigration systematically and comprehensively.

Congress must devote itself to creating a functioning legal immigration system for the 21st century--one that offers enough visas to accommodate the demand for workers, unifies American families, and addresses the underground economy of people who have put down roots in the U.S. Ensuring that only authorized persons are working in the United States is an important piece of reforming the broken immigration system. On its own, however, mandatory E-Verify is simply this year’s immigration silver bullet--another effort to spend money and look tough without actually fixing anything."

For a "Resource Page" on E-Verify, click here.



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