On Wednesday, a U.S. House subcommittee will discuss a bill filed by chair Lamar Smith, R-Texas, that would require the use of E-Verify, the federal program that verifies if a worker is authorized to work in the U.S.

The House Subcommittee on Immigration and Policy Enforcement will address Smith’s “Legal Workforce Act,” which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make the use of E-verify mandatory and permanent.

In an op-ed published today by The Los Angeles Times, Smith writes:

While 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, 7 million individuals work illegally in the United States. On top of all the challenges Americans face today, it is inexcusable that Americans and legal workers have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs.

Fortunately, there is a tool available to preserve jobs for legal workers: E-Verify. But the program is voluntary. Congress has the opportunity to expand E-Verify — including making it mandatory — so more job opportunities are made available to unemployed Americans.

Participants in a recent conference call hosted by the National Immigration Forum said mandatory E-Verify without immigration reform would harm the U.S. economy.

Tyler Moran, policy director for the National Immigration Law Center, said that if mandatory E-verify is implemented without broader immigration reform it will force some workers into the cash economy outside of our tax system, ship agricultural jobs overseas and force between 3 and 4 million American workers to stand in a government line to correct their records or lose their jobs, and that 770, 000 people will likely lose their jobs because of government database errors in E-Verify.

Craig J. Regelbrugge, vice president for government relations and research at the American Nursery & Landscape Association said that mandatory E-Verify without broader solutions would have the largest impact on the agriculture and seasonal employment sectors of the economy, resulting in economic dislocation, production declines, fewer jobs and more imports.

Moran added that Arizona is the best forecast of what mandatory E-Verify would look like without a legalization program. Implemented in January 2008, there are three significant outcomes from that Arizona law: Undocumented workers did not go home and most have moved into the cash economy; employers are coaching workers about how to get around the photo screening tool, the only mechanism to address ID theft; and half of employers are not using E-Verify for new hires despite penalties that could result in the loss of their business license.

Late last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act, a decision that deepens the debate between between supporters and detractors of mandatory state and federal E-Verify programs.

In Florida, GOP legislators this year filed immigration-enforcement bills that included state-level mandated E-Verify. The bills sparked widespread opposition and many organizations — including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — said they would harm the state’s image and economy.

The proposed bill did not pass in the Florida legislative session.

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