Opening Statement by Congressman Lamar Smith - Immigration Reform Press Conference
Statement by Congressman Lamar Smith (TX-21) – As Delivered
Member Press Conference on the Legal Workforce Act and Immigration in the National Interest Act
Thursday, September 7, 2017, 9:30 a.m., Studio B
Immigration impacts every aspect of our society. For this reason, it is one of the most challenging issues we face as a nation.
I’ve had a long-standing interest in the subject of immigration reform. When I was first elected, I represented 300 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. And I’m a former chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee and the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration.
I am introducing two pieces of legislation tomorrow to ensure our immigration policies put the interests of American workers and taxpayers first.
The Legal Workforce Act saves jobs for American workers. It applies the E-Verify electronic employment verification system to all new hires.
E-Verify is an internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s employment form with existing data at the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. The system returns a confirmation of employment eligibility or not.
The Legal Workforce Act provides employers with a reliable mechanism to determine whether their new hires are authorized to work.
The bill protects the rights of workers and employers by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue a final determination within 10 working days of the date the employee receives a tentative non-confirmation. The average resolution time is two and a half days.
The E-Verify program is free and easy to use. Employers can even access it from a smartphone. It quickly confirms 99.8 percent of work-eligible employees and takes less than two minutes to use.
Over 740,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify today and an average of 1,500 new businesses sign up each week. One-third of American jobs are now covered by E-Verify.
A recent poll found that two-thirds of voters “favor requiring businesses to use E-Verify to make sure every job goes to an American or other authorized worker.” (Pulse Opinion Research, August 25, 2017)
Next, I am introducing the Immigration in the National Interest Act – the House version of Senators Cotton and Perdue’s RAISE Act.
The legislation creates a new points-based merit immigration system that gives priority to immigrants who have the skills and abilities needed to contribute to our economy.
Under this bill, the United States will admit five million immigrants in the next 10 years. The United States will still admit more legal permanent residents than any other country.
In America today, 14% of immigrants are skilled; under this bill about 28% of immigrants admitted would be skilled. So we are doubling the percentage of skilled workers.
The legislation maintains family preferences for spouses and minor children of United States residents.
Other relatives of United States residents can use different visa programs to come to America, such as temporary visas, the new visa created by this bill that allows citizens to care for their parents, or the new points-based system.
English language ability isn’t a requirement and thousands of immigrants will be admitted who don’t speak English.
English fluency is just one of many factors that can be considered. Some immigrants will receive points for their English skills, just as they would for education or work skills.
Numerous objective studies show that low-skilled immigrants depress wages or take the jobs of lower-skilled American citizens and other legal immigrants.
The Heritage Foundation has determined that low-skilled immigrants cost the United States $150 billion each year. A legal immigrant without a high school degree typically receives $4 in government benefits for every $1 they pay in taxes. (Robert Rector, The Heritage Foundation – The Daily Signal, August 17, 2017.)
In addition, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that a lower-skilled immigrant costs taxpayers $142,000 over the immigrant’s lifetime.
Recent Polling on the provisions in the Immigration in the National Interest Act has demonstrated strong support by voters for these reforms. (Source: Pulse Opinion Research, August 25, 2017.)
Over 60% of voters want an annual limit of one-half million or less for legal permanent immigrants who receive work visas.
And 55% of voters support legislation that would allow immigrants to bring their spouse and minor children to the United States but would end chain migration or the automatic admission of extended family members.
Also, 75% of voters say that it is important in a merit-based points system that a potential immigrant be at least moderately fluent in English
These two bills put the interests of Americans first. They prevent illegal workers from taking jobs meant for Americans and prioritize our legal immigration system to admit those who can best contribute to our economy.