By Jennifer Montgomery
Last week was a very busy one for the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR) as mandatory E-Verify legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate.
The House bill, HR 2164 (the Legal Workforce Act), was introduced last Wednesday in a House Judiciary Committee hearing by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) amid significant concerns of the Agriculture community. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced a similar version in the Senate a day later.
These bills would require all employers to use E-Verify, an internet based federal system that compares US Department and Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to information contained on an employee’s I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, without including a fix for the broken H-2A temporary and seasonal alien agriculture worker program. The current H-2A program is unworkable and unable to meet the labor intensive needs of US agriculture. Therefore, passage of either of the bills without a meaningful solution to the agriculture labor problem is more than kicking the can down the road, it will be disastrous.
The enforcement-only approach, with stepped up raids and I-9 audits, cannot solve the problem. It is the hope of WineAmerica, as part of ACIR, that Congress will reconsider this tactic to curb illegal immigration and provide agriculture with a means to employ a stable, legal workforce.