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Republican State Sen. Julian Garrett sponsored and managed the bill through the chamber. Garrett said the official description of E-Verify is quite simple – an internet-based system that compares information entered by an employer from an employee’s I-9 employment eligibility verification to the records available to the United States Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. All it is intended to do is confirm someone’s employment eligibility.

Garrett said while E-Verify has been in existence “for a good many years,” one of the problems with the program is it is voluntary – both at the federal and state level. While some states have made it mandatory, Iowa is not one of them.

Still, more than 5,000 Iowa employers utilize E-Verify voluntarily.

“From those that I have talked to, I get a different perspective than what you might hear from some of the lobbyists,” Garrett said. “The businesses that use it tell me it’s very easy to use.”

According to government reports, results are typically delivered within 3-5 seconds of the inquiry.

Current practice in Iowa requires an employer to send information on the new employee to Iowa Workforce Development. This bill would add just one more thing that simply states the employer has checked with E-Verify and the employee is in the country legally and able to work legally.

Such a law will protect law-abiding business owners and employees, Garrett said.

“You know (people) are pouring across (the border) right now and the Biden Administration doesn’t seem to want to do a thing about it,” he added. “People are coming across and they’re really desperate for jobs and they will work for cut-rate wages. Imagine if you’re an employer and you obey the law. You only hire people who can legally be hired that are here in the country legally but you’ve got to compete with the guy down the street that’s hiring people who will work for cut-rate wages.”

Garrett called that situation a “pretty obvious” disadvantage to law-abiding business owners. And, the fact business owners who ignore the law hire people to work for cut-rate wages, hurts law-abiding citizens looking to work for a good wage.

“There are all kinds of people here in Iowa who obey the law,” Garrett said. “They’re not going to go out and violate the law. Those are the people this bill is going to help.”

While federal law pre-empts state law on enforcement of immigration laws, there is an exception for licensing, which is why the bill uses the licensing issue as the remedy for enforcement.

“What this bill does if the employer has violated the law, they lose their business license,” Garrett said.

The license can eventually be restored, but if they violate the law again Garrett said the business owners will be “in big trouble.”

“I would submit businessmen are not so dumb if they get caught violating the law they’re going to turn around and do it again,” Garrett said. “They know better than that.”

Democrat State Sen. Janice Weiner pointed out the business community is in strong opposition to the proposal. She said that should cause senators to “snap to.” The bill puts a mandate on businesses and applies to all businesses regardless of how many people they employ. Weiner said the bill presents a “very onerous penalty and criminalizes employers.”

Another point of contention from Democrats is the possibility that someone will file complaints against a company due to a personal vendetta or grudge. Others may do it because they “see someone brown” working for the company.

Democrat State Sen. Tony Bisignano expressed concern with the fact any time there is a government shutdown, E-Verify does not work.

“Through the entire period of the shutdown, nothing moves,” he said. “Employers do not get to fill positions. Employees or applicants do not get to get employment.”

Bisignano said the estimated price tag of $1 million for the bill is a lot of money for the state to spend on something Iowa Senate Republicans “probably really haven’t taken a lot of time to understand.”

He went on to say that Wednesday wasn’t the day for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry or businesses in general at the Capitol.

“Today is somebody else’s day,” he said. “This is the day that we make our strong anti-immigrant statement. This is that day. Above all else, above our friends, above our businesses, above our employees – today is the day we send a message. We’re looking for you and we’re going to penalize you.”

Bisignano said Casey’s may be run out of the state if they violate the law just twice within a short window of time.

“Casey’s can do this two times in 20 minutes as many people as they hire around this state,” Bisignano said. “If by chance two of them slip through and they happen to be within a very short period of time, are we going to go around and go pick up the licenses at all the Casey’s stores in Iowa? No, we’re not. I learned a long time ago you don’t bully up to somebody unless you’re really prepared to go to the mat. Are you prepared to go to the mat with our best and biggest employers?”

Garrett closed debate on the bill by repeating the fact that more than 5,000 Iowa businesses already use E-Verify voluntarily. He said the program is supported nationally by voters.

“People are concerned about what’s going on around here at the border,” he said. “That’s probably the No. 1 issue. We hear about that all of the time. It doesn’t make us look good to just sluff that off. There’s not a lot we can do here in Iowa at the state level, but this is something we can do and I think it’ll make a difference.”

E-Verify’s error rate, Garrett said, is just 0.14 percent. And, he added, more than 98 percent of the time people get a response within 3-5 seconds.

Ultimately, Garrett highlighted the deaths of two Iowa women – Mollie Tibbetts and Sarah Root – as two reasons the bill is necessary. Both Tibbetts and Root were killed by illegal immigrants.

“You all know it,” Garrett said. “They were killed by people who shouldn’t even have been here. People who came here illegally. Can you imagine if one of those young women were a relative and they’re not here anymore because somebody in government wasn’t doing their job and let these young men come in and, we know what happened. I guess I could talk more, but I think I’ve made the point.”


  1. In other words, Republicans are further advancing the power of the State requiring people to get the State’s permission to work.


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