Illegal Immigration, Jobs Back in Spotlight at E-Verify Hearing
By Keith Johnson
September 15, 2011, 12:15 PM ET

Since the demise of the DREAM Act, immigration as a hot-button issue has simmered quietly in the Beltway background. Not anymore. Today, the House Judiciary Committee is holding a markup hearing on the Legal Workforce Act, a bill designed to make the use of E-Verify mandatory for all employers in the U.S.

Immigration, if not exactly the electronic verification program, has popped up in recent GOP primary debates; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for instance, was excoriated for his approach to immigration in the Lone Star State, and there was plenty of sturm und drang over the need (or not) to wall off the southern border.

But the coming tussle over the e-verify bill introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas) puts the spotlight squarely back on jobs. That is: Do the eight million or so undocumented workers in the U.S. take jobs from Americans who desperately need work? If so, would expelling illegals greatly ease unemployment?

Rep. Smith sure thinks so. His bill would make it incumbent upon every American employer outside agriculture to check every new hire through the government database system. That database, E-Verify, has been around in one form or another since the mid-1990s, and is currently used voluntarily by some businesses, and is mandatory in some states, such as Arizona.

“A federal E-Verify requirement…is one of the best options on the table to put unemployed Americans back to work,