Grassley Presses Obama Administration On E-Verify

Grassley presses Obama administration on E-Verify

By Lynda Waddington
The Iowa Independent (Center for Independent Media), June 22, 2009

Because the Obama administration has slowed the implementation of a 2007 executive order signed by Pres. George W. Bush that would have mandated federal contractors and subcontractors use an otherwise voluntary work authorization database, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley hopes Congress will make the process law.

Grassley, a longtime supporter of the program now known as E-Verify, has introduced an amendment that would require any entity that enters into a contract with the federal government to participate in the E-Verify program.

'When people enter this country illegally, they create undue delays and hardship for people following the rules,' Grassley said. 'E-Verify is an effective tool to fight illegal immigrants who break the law.'

Obama administration officials said implementation was postponed to Sept. 8 to allow further review of the orders necessity. In opposition to the order, he U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit, which remains pending in the U.S. District Court in Maryland.

Although some groups have touted the effectiveness of the database, which draws information from the Social Security Administration, not everyone is convinced. One of the primary criticisms surrounding the program is that the database cannot ascertain if documents presented by workers are legitimate. In fact, Swift & Co. was using the program prior to the massive 2006 raids at their meatpacking plants, including their Marshalltown facility. The same was true of Mississippis Howard Industries before it became in 2008 the largest single-site immigration enforcement action in the nations history.

It was due in large part to immigration raids at the very plants utilizing the E-Verify system that Eric Bord, a partner in the Washington, D.C.-based Morgan Lewis law firm, said the program has the 'perverse effect of encouraging identity theft.'

A press release announcing Grassleys amendment indicates that 'over the last several years, reports have shown many examples of illegal aliens working at military bases or installations and allowing them to work in sensitive areas.'

'During the last immigration debate,' Grassley said, 'the Senate spoke unanimously that government contractors should not receive a free pass when it comes to their hiring practices. Weve seen too many illegal immigrants hired by federal contractors to turn a blind eye to this national security risk.'

The entire E-Verify program is up for extension as a part of U.S. Homeland Security appropriations. The Senate committee has approved a three-year extension, as requested by Pres. Barack Obama, and provided $118.5 million. The House committee, however, seeks to extend the program for only two years and provides $112 million. For at least the time being, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said publicly that she supports the program and wants it to continue. Either the House or Senate appropriations would provide the funds necessary to continue to the program until anticipated comprehensive immigration reform legislation is debated.

And, because comprehensive immigration reform discussion is anticipated to be taken up by Congress after health reform is complete, it isnt likely that Grassleys amendment will do much more than generate talking points for an already frustrated Republican base much like the other three GOP attempts to attach the mandate.