As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2885) (pdf), which would require that employers use E-Verify to authenticate individuals’ legal work status, has produced one of the more unusual opposition coalitions, given the current political climate: conservative, tea-party, libertarian and liberal groups all oppose the measure. The groups have voiced their opposition in letters to lawmakers, and one group took an ad out on Politico, a multimedia news outlet covering politics.
On September 21, 2011, the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill, which was sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). Rep. Smith had previously called on President Obama to include a similar provision in the American Jobs Act.
Democrats oppose H.R. 2885, contending the bill will harm workers and businesses. During the Judiciary Committee’s September 15, 2011, hearing (pdf) on the bill, the Committee’s ranking Democrat, Jon Conyers (MI) said that mandating E-Verify use “would simply push employers to go off the book” or “classify workers as independent contractors.” Additionally, Rep. Conyers noted that inaccuracies in the E-Verify database could impact legal workers’ ability to secure employment. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D–CA) cited a Bloomberg government study (pdf) concluding that mandatory E-Verify would cost small businesses about $2.6 billion every year to verify new hires.
Even fellow Republicans expressed concern. Rep. Dan Lungren (R–CA) believed the Legal Workforce Act could negatively impact agriculture employers, which rely strongly on foreign labor. Earlier in September, Reps. Smith and Lungren each introduced immigration-related bills concerning the agriculture industry – Smith introduced H.R. 2847 (pdf), the American Specialty Agriculture Act, and Lungren introduced H.R. 2895, the Legal Agricultural Workforce Act.