Senate Debate Stalls E-Verify Reauthorization – Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)
Last Thursday, September 18th, Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) debated multiple bills to reauthorize the E-Verify program, but were unable to reach a decision. E-Verify is an electronic tool that allows employers to verify that they are hiring legal workers by matching identification documents against databases managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The program, which is required by multiple states and for federal contractors, will expire in November if it is not reauthorized. In July, the House passed an E-Verify reauthorization bill (H.R.6633) by a vote of 407-2, but the Senate has not brought the bill to the floor. Rather than bringing H.R.6633 to the Senate floor, Members of the Judiciary Committee and Senate leadership have been debating the addition of extra visa provisions to an E-Verify extension bill.
The series of floor speeches and exchanges between the two Senators began last Thursday evening when Sen. Sessions made a unanimous consent motion to bring S.3257 to the Senate floor. S.3257, the Legal Immigration Extension Act of 2008, extends the E-Verify program for five years (Sec. 5), but also extends investor visas (Sec. 2), medical student visas (Sec. 3), and non-minister religious worker visas (Sec. 4). Sen. Sessions noted that the additional visas were the result of a compromise between Members of the Judiciary Committee. However, he also said, “I cannot agree and this Congress and this Senate should not agree to an additional expansion of immigrants into this country as a price to continue the current law.” (Congressional Record, pg. S9006)
Following Sen. Sessions’ motion for a unanimous consent, Sen. Menendez, reserving his right to object, expressed his concerns that the E-Verify reauthorization provided by S.3257 was missing important provisions that had been included in H.R.6633. (Congressional Record, pg. S9007) H.R.6633 requires that DHS enter into a reimbursement agreement with the SSA, and also provides for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to examine the accuracy of the E-Verify program.
After Sen. Menendez’s discussion of H.R.6633, Sen. Sessions regained the floor and asked Sen. Menendez if they could reach an agreement by bringing the House bill to the floor instead of S.3257. To this request, Sen. Menendez replied that he would instead make a unanimous consent request to bring S.3414, the Visa Efficiency and E-Verify Extension Act of 2008, to the floor. S.3414 extends medical student visas (Sec. 3) and non-minister religious worker visas (Sec. 4) and includes a five-year E-Verify extension (Sec. 5). However, the bill also includes two controversial provisions which would “recapture” visas that went un-issued between 1992 and 2007, adding an estimated 550,000 extra visas to the immigration system. (S.3414 Sec.2 and Sec.3; Congressional Record, pg. S9007)
Upon regaining the floor, Sen. Sessions stated that the 550,000 visas are a “huge increase and unacceptable.” Sen. Sessions then stated that the Senate would either “go forward with the agreement that we reached in the committee, without the changes Sen. Menendez offers, or we will have to have a real debate.” Sen. Sessions concluded his floor statements by saying, “It is time for this Senate to get busy and to create a system that ends the mockery that exists for our legal system today and creates a lawful system that will serve our national interests.” (Congressional Record, pg. S9007)
H/T Right Side News
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Urgent Action Items:
Please, call your Senators and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office (202-224-3542) today and every day until they bring E-Verify to the Senate Floor.
Tell your Senators to insist that their leadership not allow Senator Menendez to kill E-Verify and to bring H.R. 6633 to the Senate floor.
Call Senator Reid’s office and tell him you want H.R. 6633 brought to the Senate Floor immediately with no strings attached.
Legislative Update — September 22, 2008
In this Update: