The Lamar Smith Bill to Mandate E-Verify Should Not Move Forward

Wednesday, September 14, 2011
George Tzamaras or Jenny Werwa
202-507-7649 / 202-507-7628 /

WASHINGTON, DC -Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will review and vote on Chairman Lamar Smith's (R-TX) legislation to mandate E-Verify for all employers and workers across the country. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) opposes the legislation, called the "Legal Workforce Act," because it will harm American workers and businesses and do nothing to fix the nation's immigration problems.

"Under the guise of 'job creation,' this bill will ultimately kill 800,000 jobs in our economy. This is not the direction we should be going right now," said AILA President Eleanor Pelta. Every report on the program has found major flaws, including high system failure rates and database errors that cause the rejection of legal workers. "If Congress passes this law, we will see thousands of employed or job-seeking Americans wasting their time standing lined up at government offices to clear up their records. No elected official will want to be blamed for that," said Pelta.

"What's more," Pelta continued, "Congressman Smith is clearly playing politics with his legislation. He has attempted to appease the loudest opponents of the Legal Workforce Act, the agricultural industry, which relies on a largely undocumented workforce, by drafting feeble legislation to create special visas for farm workers so that immigrants can continue to work in the fields and pick crops." The American Specialty Agriculture Act, introduced by Chairman Smith last week, is far from a solution to the problem of employment in the US agricultural industry. In fact, it would strip workers of their labor rights and do nothing to help American workers.

"Chairman Smith's plan to make E-Verify mandatory will do enormous harm by disrupting business operations, forcing millions of workers into the black market economy, and decreasing tax revenue by more than $17 billion in a decade," said Pelta. Conservative estimates indicate that small businesses alone will pay several billions of dollars to implement the new system.

The Smith bill mandates an impossible 2-year expedited implementation schedule nationwide for a new and untested employment verification system. The government cannot possibly get 6 million employers signed up in 2 years.

The Smith bill will hurt workers. The bill will invite discrimination by employers. Workers who lose their jobs due to problems with the new system can only sue the government for lost wages under the restrictive Federal Tort Claims Act.

The bill would make it a felony crime for workers or employers to knowingly misuse a social security number or other identification. It would increase fines ten-fold for employers, but provide safe harbor provisions for employers who act in good faith.

The bill puts enormous burdens on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to issue millions of compliance letters to employers and employees. Anyone holding more than one job or who has an error in their records-easily millions of U.S. workers-could be blocked from working while they hassle with SSA to clear their records.

"America needs a real solution to the complex immigration issue, and this is not it. Rep. Smith claims the bill will help American workers but that's a false promise. Eight million undocumented workers will not deport themselves. They will be pushed into the underground economy where they will not have labor protections. We need a comprehensive plan for immigration that requires millions of undocumented workers to register so they can legalize their status," concluded Pelta.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 11091470.