In a U.S. House subcommittee meeting held today, business sector spokesmen announced their support for the “Legal Workforce Act,” filed by chair Lamar Smith, R-Texas, that would require the use of E-Verify, the federal program that checks to see if a job applicant is authorized to work in the U.S.

Barry Rutenberg, first vice chairman of the board at the National Association of Home Builders, and himself a home builder from Gainesville — testified at the subcommittee meeting, highlighting points in in his written statement (.pdf):

  • E-Verify must continue to focus on the direct employer-employee relationship; holding every U.S. employer accountable for the identity and work authorization status of their direct employees.
  • Those entities whose primary purpose is to refer or supply workers to employers should also be required to verify the identity and work authorization of those workers before they are referred or supplied to an employer, regardless of whether that service is done for a fee.
  • Any legislation that mandates the use of E-Verify by all U.S. employers must include a strong preemption clause, preventing state and local governments from creating and enforcing their own versions of verification requirements for employers.
  • Any mandatory federal E-Verify program must contain a robust safe harbor for employers in order to ensure that those who use the system in good faith will not be held accountable by the Department of Homeland Security, or by the employer‟s workers, for errors in the E-Verify system.

Craig Miller — from the National Restaurant Association, who also testified on Wednesday — said in a written statement (.pdf), “We realize that E-Verify is not infallible, as unauthorized workers using stolen or borrowed identifications might still pass an E-Verify check, but we support Congress’ efforts to establish a more effective federal system for all employers.”

Miller’s statement added that verifying employment authorization, not the expansion of employment protections, should be the sole emphasis of an E-Verify mandate. His statement “emphasized that there are already existing laws that govern wage requirements, pensions, health benefits, the interactions between employers and unions, safety and health requirements, hiring and firing practices, and discrimination statutes.”

On Tuesday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued the following statement in support of Smith’s legislation:

The Chamber commends Chairman Smith for introducing a new E-Verify bill that has strong preemption language for state and local laws mandating the use of E-Verify or establishing state or local employment verification schemes, mirrors the existing FAR rules for federal contractors using E-Verify on current workforce, and establishes a fully electronic employment verification obligation with a clear safe harbor for employers that act in good faith.

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