Floor Remarks by Sen. Grassley On the Re-Introduction of the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act

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Madam President:

I recently re-introduced the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act this Congress.

This commonsense bill would require all employers to use the E-verify program to ensure that they’re employing a legal workforce.

As most Americans have realized, the immigration debate today in Congress has become highly partisan and controversial.

Worst of all, it’s become completely unproductive.

I believe there’s a sliver of hope, however, and that’s the E-verify program.

Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, whether you’re for open borders, or you want to secure our border – we all ought to agree that enforcing the law and protecting American workers is a bipartisan goal.

In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act made it a federal crime to employ undocumented workers for the first time in our history.

Ten years later, in 1996, Congress created a new tool to verify employment eligibility known as E-verify.

E-verify is a voluntary program that gives employers a web-based tool to verify the identity and employment eligibility of new employees.

I’ve worked to renew and expand the program for use in all 50 states and to allow for information sharing between federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland of Security.

Participating employers tap into a user-friendly, free electronic system that cross matches documents provided by employees on their I-9 forms with federal records available to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Today, E-Verify provides instant verification for more than 750,000 employers and businesses across the country.

In fact, my Senate office uses E-Verify when hiring staff. It’s quick and easy to use.

At my annual 99 county meetings, I regularly hear about the growing economy, rising wages and vitality on Main Streets.

Iowa now ranks first in the nation for the lowest level of unemployment.

That also means there’s growing challenges for employers to hire the workforce needed to grow and expand.

We need to make sure hiring practices don’t harm U.S. workers or those authorized to work in the United States.

That is why I re-introduced the Accountability through Electronic Verification bill.

This legislation will help businesses comply with immigration laws by certifying the legal status of their workforce.

The bill would permanently authorize the E-Verify program and require employers to use the program to determine workers’ eligibility.

For decades, E-Verify has served as a proven tool for employers.

It’s helped to reduce incentives for illegal immigration and safeguard job opportunities for Americans and other legal workers.

Expanding the system to every workplace will improve accountability for all businesses and take another important step toward putting American workers first.

Current law requires all contractors doing work for the federal government to use E-Verify.

States that have passed laws mandating the use of E-Verify also may require employers to participate, for example as a condition of business licensing.

With low unemployment across the nation, and with Iowa leading the way, policymakers have a responsibility to ensure the growing economy has the workforce it needs to continue to grow.

As former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I worked extensively to protect the integrity of employment visas and work permits for foreign workers.

A top priority must be to ensure immigration policies aren’t displacing American workers or depressing wages.

Making E-Verify a permanent and mandatory requirement for all U.S. employers will bring across-the-board certainty to hiring practices across the country.

Certifying the legal status for prospective hires makes common sense and having in place the tools at one’s fingertips makes it a simple, convenient solution.

E-Verify is a proven tool to encourage legal immigrants to apply for unfilled jobs and to deter illegal immigration and human trafficking.

In addition to making E-Verify permanent and mandatory within one year of enactment, my bill would: increase penalties for employers who illegally hire workers unauthorized to work in the U.S.

It also would require employers to check the status of all current employees within one year using the E-Verify system and terminate employment of those found unauthorized to work in the United States.

This bill establishes a demonstration project in rural areas without internet capabilities to assist small businesses.

Finally, the bill would require the Social Security Administration to improve efforts to detect identity theft using Social Security Numbers.

Expanding e-verify will help restore integrity and trust in our nation’s immigration system by curbing incentives for illegal immigration.

I was pleased to hear my colleague Chairman Graham highlight the benefit of E-verify in a Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

He’s right: nationwide E-verify would go a long way to relieve concerns about illegal immigration and workforce displacement.

Let me repeat: this bill would not change immigration law.

All it does is ensure that businesses are complying with existing federal law through a quick, cost-efficient, and proven online method.

It is a simple first step to tackling larger issues within immigration.

And best of all, it has the support of the American people.

A recent Zogby poll showed that mandatory E-verify enjoys widespread support from voters. 74 percent of all voters polled support mandatory E-verify.

In fact, the support is bipartisan. The poll showed that roughly 55 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and nearly 91 percent of Republicans support this idea.

Support for nationwide E-verify isn’t just nonpartisan. It’s supported by Americans across all ethnic boundaries.

58 percent of Hispanic voters, 52 percent of black voters, and 74 percent of Asian voters polled all support E-verify.

Madam President, I’ll close with this.

Perhaps, it’s time that Congress and both parties take a deep breath and listen to the American people instead of their own echo chambers.

Before we discuss expanding guest worker programs or discuss comprehensive immigration reform, let’s first codify E-verify and restore the American peoples’ trust in our immigration system.

I yield the floor.


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