The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement hosted a hearing Thursday morning on the merits of E-Verify and its capability to protect American jobs from illegal workers. The Congressmen in attendance were Elton Gallegly (Subcommittee Chairman) of California, Lamar Smith (Committee Chairman) of Texas, Dennis Ross the Freshman Member from Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Ted Poe of Texas, Zoe Lofgren (Subcommittee Ranking Member), John Conyers (Committee Ranking Member), and Pedro Pierluisi the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico.
The audience was at capacity as numerous Congressional interns and immigration advocacy groups competed for sitting room with a line extending outside the main committee door. The witnesses were Theresa Bertucci with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Richard Stana with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
However, the real jewel of this hearing was not the witness testimony, but the live E-Verify demonstration on three screens, one the size of a small movie theatre.
As is often the case with Congressional hearings, the opening statements of the Committee leaders and the witnesses were uneventful and predictable, citing the usual sources, making the usual arguments, and, for the most part, using the same numbers. After nine years of prepping and attending committee hearings, it’s my opinion that opening statements are simply intended to let the audience know who represents what position.
Lamar Smith and Elton Gallegly expressed support for E-Verify, while Zoe Lofgren expressed concern about the program’s accuracy, and John Conyers emphasized support for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” instead of enforcement. He even said, “We are in the midst of record deportations from the United States,” which is doubtful but entirely plausible considering that the Obama Administration has exclusive access to that particular data and uses their own mathematical formula. And if you want the equation, you have to cross the rainbow bridge of hope and change to the White House.
After the testimony, the Committee proceeded to the live E-Verify demonstration that made the case as a quick, easy, and user-friendly program for determining the employment eligibility of a new employee. However, that didn’t stop Zoe Lofgren’s skepticism by making a hypothetical prediction that E-Verify would have cost small businesses $2.7 billion in set-up costs had it been made mandatory in 2010.
Ranking Member Conyers, the former chairman, who is so often wrong on so many issues, apparently “forgot” his glasses and couldn’t see the E-Verify demonstration. Nevertheless, while he represents a district in Michigan and not the “Show me State” of Missouri, with his very proficient committee staff, nearsightedness should not have been be an excuse for ignorance. He said, “We have no evidence of how it’s [E-Verify] really working” and that it was “not ready for prime time.”
The two best statements during the question and answer portion of the hearing came from freshman Representative Dennis Ross of Central Florida and Ted Poe of Texas. Rep. Ross, who replaced former Rep. Adam Putnam (the new Florida Agriculture Commissioner), is already proving to be a better representative than his predecessor who supported amnesty six times during his years in the House of Representatives. Ross reminded the panel of the agricultural roots of his district, but also said “free [illegal] immigrant labor is a disincentive to use the H-2A program,” which is right on the money. How can the United States expect its legal immigration policies and programs to work as long as we continue to sustain an illegal workforce?
And finally, while Ted Poe didn’t have the last word of the committee, his statement made the best impact especially after the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico lectured the committee on discrimination and his support for amnesty. Poe said, “I don’t believe they [illegal aliens] come here to do the work Americans won’t do. That’s fiction.” It’s hard to find a better advocate of border security than Ted Poe.
Thursday’s hearing was just the first of many expected on the topic of E-Verify and workplace enforcement in the 112th Congress. The E-Verify program’s authorization expires in 19 months, September 2012, and there is much work to be done; hearts, minds, and votes to be won.
JONATHAN OSBORNE is the Chief Legislative Assistant for NumbersUSA