- - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Last month’s jobs report brings bad news to American families across the United States. Under the Obama administration’s watch, the unemployment rate has hit 8.2 percent and is even worse for American minorities. Unemployment for Hispanics has risen to 11 percent, and for black Americans it has jumped to nearly 14 percent.

Despite this bad news, there also is good news: Congress and the Obama administration have the opportunity to come together and enact a bill that could open up countless jobs for unemployed American minorities, the Legal Workforce Act. This bill would require all U.S. employers to use the E-Verify program and would be one of the fastest ways to help unemployed Americans of all races and backgrounds get back on the payroll to earn a living for themselves and their families.

E-Verify is a Web-based program that quickly identifies individuals working illegally in the United States and protects jobs for legal workers. This common-sense program doesn’t ask race or ethnicity. It merely checks the Social Security numbers of new hires to ensure they are authorized to work here.

The “E” in E-Verify could just as well stand for “easy” and “effective.” It takes about a minute to use per newly hired employee and immediately confirms 99.5 percent of work-eligible employees. Because there are 7 million illegal immigrants in the workforce, we could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify.

Part of the success of E-Verify is that participating employers are happy with the results because it provides American employers who want to do the right thing with an easy way to do so. Even though E-Verify is not mandatory, many businesses voluntarily use it. Nearly 375,000 American employers use E-Verify, and another 2,200 new businesses sign up each week.

Outside evaluations have found that the vast majority of employers using E-Verify think it is an effective and reliable tool for checking the legal status of their employees. E-Verify recently received an exceptionally high overall customer-satisfaction score - 82 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index scale. That is well above the overall federal government’s score of 69.

The public also supports E-Verify. A new Pulse Opinion Research poll again confirms that the American people from all political affiliations and races overwhelmingly support the use of E-Verify.

The poll found that 78 percent of likely voters favor mandating that all employers electronically verify the immigration status of their workers. Among those who expressed an opinion, 94 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of independents, 81 percent of Democrats, and 88 percent of moderates of all parties said they favor requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify. Eighty-one percent of black Americans and 76 percent of other minorities, including Hispanic- and Asian-Americans, agreed. With these polling numbers, an E-Verify expansion arguably is one of the most popular and nonpartisan ways to create new jobs.

The facts show E-Verify and other work-site enforcement activities actually benefit minority workers by opening up jobs, increasing wages and reducing job competition by reducing an illegal workforce.

For example, after illegal workers are arrested and detained during Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) work-site enforcement actions, many businesses replace them with American minorities.

This was true when Georgia’s Crider Inc. lost more than 600 illegal workers after an ICE work-site enforcement action. The company increased wages $1 an hour and attracted legal workers, primarily black Americans from the local community. There are similar stories all over the United States, and the results are the same. Enforce immigration laws and open up jobs for unemployed Americans.

For the past three years, American minorities have suffered under President Obama’s failed economic policies. While the administration’s policies have resulted in more spending and debt, they have produced fewer jobs. It’s past time for the administration to work with Congress on a solution that actually works: E-Verify. We should expand this program now so future jobs reports bring good news to American households.

Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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