Last week this blog reported that a measure known as the Legal Workforce Act was to go through markup in the House Judiciary Committee. On Wednesday the measure passed committee on a party-line vote and now moves on to the full House. The measure would make use of the federal E-Verify system mandatory for all employers across the country when looking to confirm an employee's eligibility to work in the United States.
Prior to the vote, the committee reportedly considered an Amendment offered by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) that intended to address the agricultural workforce in the United States. The House Judiciary Committee rejected the amendment and the measure will go to the full House without a provision addressing the agricultural workforce.
A senior Vice President with the United Fresh Produce Association, Robert Guenther says, "Without an agricultural worker program, this legislation threatens the viability of fruit and vegetable growers across the country, and will have a significant impact on the entire fresh produce marketing chain."
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R.-Tex.) originally introduced the Legal Workforce Act. He has also introduced a separate measure, known as the American Specialty Agriculture Act, which is expected to receive further consideration in the House Judiciary Committee at a later date. Sources indicate that measure would essentially modify the current H-2A agricultural visa program.
The Legal Workforce Act, on the other hand, would modify the overall business employment eligibility verification process. Currently, use of the E-Verify system is generally voluntary in most states, including Florida-at least for private businesses. State employers and contractors in Florida are required under executive order to use E-Verify.
Source: Southeast Farm Press, "House committee passes E-Verify bill, rejects ag worker amendment," Sept. 22, 2011