A Wednesday vote by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to approve the “Legal Workforce Act,” which would mandate the use of the immigration enforcement E-Verify program, has prompted mixed reactions among conservative and industry groups.

The bill — sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and cosponsored by Florida GOP Reps. Jeff Miller, Dennis Ross, Allen West and C.W. Bill Young — would require all U.S. employers to use E-Verify, the electronic federal database, to verify if an employee is authorized to work in the U.S. It will now move to the House floor.

The International Business Times states that Smith’s bill has “has set up a clash between two Republican doctrines: cracking down on illegal immigration versus opposing regulations that could dampen hiring and constrain small business owners.”

The Packer — the “fresh fruit and vegetable industry’s leading source for news, information and analysis” — quoted Monte Lake, a Washington-based agriculture lobbyist and attorney:

We are on the advent of potential mandatory E-Verify rules. Congress is incapable of getting ahead of difficult topics like immigration and apparently needed a train wreck to justify coming up with a solution to a difficult solution. That’s what we have concluded because they have not really paid attention to us and mustered the political will to solve the problem.

In another article The Packer added that “any pretense that the Legal Workforce Act would accommodate the needs of agriculture was dissolved with the votes of the House Judiciary Committee Sept. 21.”

The article continued:

“If the (Legal Workforce Act) should pass the House without a mitigation for agriculture, domestic agriculture is in serious trouble,” said Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Council of Agricultural Employers.

In a member alert, the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association said the Legal Workforce Act doesn’t address the needs of agriculture.

“Without an ag worker program, this legislation threatens the viability of fruit and vegetable growers across the country, with significant impact on the entire fresh produce marketing chain,” the United Fresh alert said.

The Wall Street Journal has said that E-Verify “doesn’t appear very good at identifying illegal workers, would likely bar huge numbers of legal Americans from taking a job thanks to all the false positives the database throws out, and would just push undocumented workers into the informal economy where they’d pay fewer taxes.”

Opponents of the Smith bill have pointed out that they do not propose eliminating an employee verification program, but say businesses need one that works well for employers — especially small companies — and workers.

Analysts and business organizations have argued that E-Verify alone would hurt Florida and the U.S. economy, but those same organizations say that a program that allows employers to verify a worker’s immigration status must be part of federal immigration reform.

Numbers USA, which supports an “attrition through enforcement” immigration policy and wants “lower immigration levels,” called Wednesday’s vote a “victory.”

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