Mandatory E-Verify legislation passes House Judiciary Committee

4 Mar 15


A bill that would require all U.S. employers to participate in the E-Verify program was approved Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee. The legislation faces strong opposition from Democrats who argue that it could have a very negative effect on the agricultural sector. The bill passed out of committee along a party line vote of 20-13 with no amendments added during markup and will now move to the House floor.

Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1147), would replace the current paper-based I-9 system with a completely electronic check on worker eligibility. It would gradually phase in mandatory participation for new hires in six-month increments from the date of enactment based on business size. All businesses, including agricultural businesses, would be expected to fully participate after three years. The legislation would raise penalties on employers who knowingly hire immigrants who are not authorized to work, but it would also provide “safe harbor” from prosecution to employers who use E-Verify in good faith and receive an incorrect eligibility confirmation through no fault of their own.

BAL Analysis: The current bill enjoys widespread GOP support in the House, but it remains to be seen whether and how quickly it would be brought for a full vote on the House floor. It would likely face an uphill battle in the Senate, where more minority votes are needed for ultimate passage.

Meanwhile, participation in E-Verify continues to grow across the country with approximately 580,000 American employers currently enrolled, and it is generally viewed favorably. Mandatory participation is more controversial because of perceptions that certain sectors, particularly agriculture, would face serious difficulties in hiring a fully legal workforce using E-Verify without a concurrent increase in low-skilled or agricultural visas.

BAL is monitoring all legislative developments in Congress and will continue to provide updates as additional information becomes available. For more frequent updates and news, follow us on our BAL Government Affairs Twitter page.

For additional information or questions:

Lynden Melmed, Partner
Washington D.C.
Direct 202.842.5830

Christiana Kern, Legislative Analyst
Direct 202.842.5831

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