Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
House will vote on mandatory E-Verify
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 — especially those in the agricultural sector.
The bill — sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and Committee chairman, and cosponsored by 63 members including Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Latham — would require all U.S. employers to use E-Verify, an electronic federal database, to verify if an employee is authorized to work in the U.S.
A more detailed history of E-Verify is available from The Iowa Independent’s archives.
The proposal will now moves to the House floor where it will be considered without an amendment offered by California Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren that would have allowed special provisions agricultural employers say they need in order to have the farm labor needed to continue providing the nation with fresh produce.
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.
Although fruit and vegetable producers and their associations have been the most vocal about the agricultural worker shortage, Iowa dairy farmers raised the issue with U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley during his 2009 visit to a Delhi farm.
“The way I feel, and I know that others may not feel the same way, but there needs to be legislation to allow [immigrants] to come over and not just on a work permit or whatever for six months,” the dairy producer said, noting that his Clinton County operation employs more than 20 immigrant workers.
Legislation that would allow immigrants to come into the U.S. and work for extended periods of time needs to be developed, according to the farmers that were in attendance, because short-term work permits do not provide for consistency in training and maintaining a workforce. Otherwise the available workforce for the areas in which farms exist has aged, and the few younger workers have learned that they can make better paychecks for less manual labor by working in retail establishment such as fast food.
But the agriculture conflict is only one of many that has arisen as a result of the bill, which has found mix support among conservatives.
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 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.”
Similar criticisms were documented in 2008 by The Iowa Independent in the wake of two high-profile immigration raids at meatpacking plants.
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 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.”
(Lynda Waddington contributed to this report.)