Immigration Reform

House Judiciary Subcommittee Considers Legal Workforce Act; Focuses on Worksite Enforcement

Feb 18, 2015
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As previously reported, on November 20, 2014, in lieu of congressional action, President Obama issued a series of executive actions targeted at strengthening border enforcement efforts, providing millions of undocumented aliens temporary relief from deportation and providing work authorization for these individuals with family ties to the United States.

While enactment of comprehensive immigration reform is not likely in the current Congress, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has indicated that immigration reform will remain a priority for the House this year. As a result, we can expect that the 114th Congress will likely take a step-by-step approach to immigration reform.

Demonstrating the committee’s commitment to renewing immigration talks, Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, held a legislative hearing on February 4 to examine the Legal Workforce Act (LWA). The LWA principally focuses on worksite enforcement and would mandate the use of an enhanced employment verification (E-Verify) system by all employers to verify the work eligibility of new hires. Similar legislation was passed by the committee in the last Congress, but the proposal was not considered by the full House.

During the hearing, Chairman of the full House Judiciary Committee, Representative Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) remarked, “One way to make sure we discourage illegal immigration in the future is to prevent unlawful immigrants from getting jobs in the US. Requiring the use of E-Verify by all employers across the country will help do just that. The web-based program is a reliable and quick way for employers to electronically check the work eligibility of newly hired employees.”

In anticipation of the hearing, the SHRM–led coalition of employers including the Council for Global Immigration, the National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation and the North American Meat Institute, submitted a statement for the Congressional Record seeking modifications to the draft of the Legal Workforce Act. Specifically, the coalition believes that while the draft proposal takes steps toward modernizing and improving the current employment verification system including creating a totally integrated, fully electronic system further changes are needed to provide employers with effective tools to ensure they are hiring a legal workforce and to protect against identity theft. Recommended changes to improve the employment verification system include providing employers with a reliable mechanism in the verification system to confirm the identity of the person applying for the position. In addition, the coalition supports the establishment of a good faith safe harbor provision for decisions that employers make in reliance on the system.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to move forward with a new version of the Legal Workforce Act proposal in the next few weeks. SHRM will continue to be actively engaged in discussions on behalf of the employer community and will provide updates on legislative developments in future HR Issues Updates. In the meantime, to get the latest and to engage with other employers on employment-based immigration topics, you can register to attend the Council for Global Immigration’s 2015 Symposium, held June 8-11 in Washington, DC.

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