This vote was on whether to kill an amendment by Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that would make permanent the Homeland Security Department’s E-Verify program and compel government contractors to check employees’ citizenship via this system. E-Verify is an online program that helps employers verify that employees are legally able to work inside the United States. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2010.
Sessions said the Center for Immigration Studies has estimated that 15 percent of the construction jobs created by the recent economic stimulus law will go to illegal immigrants.
“The question is, is there anything we can do about it? The answer is yes. We have an E-Verify system where employers voluntarily, all over the country, are using a computer verification system to determine whether the job applicant who appears before them is here legally and entitled to work. The Federal Government uses that same system for every employee it hires, but we did not require that for employers who get government contracts under the stimulus package,” Sessions said. “ I hope my colleagues will step forward now and let’s make this a permanent system. It is certainly contemplated to be permanent. But for odd reasons, to me, there seems to be a reluctance to make it so.”
Chuck Schumer, who moved that Sessions’ amendment be killed, said the administration had just issued a proposed rule that will require federal contractors to use this system to verify their employees’ immigration status, and so there is no need for Sessions’ amendment.
“He has another part of the amendment, which is to make E-Verify permanent. I say to my colleagues that I don’t think we want to make E-Verify permanent because it is not tough enough or strong enough. There is a gaping loophole in E-Verify. It is the best we have now. We should use it for Federal contractors. I support that. But there is a big loophole,” Schumer said. “Let’s say an illegal immigrant wants to say they are John Jones from Syracuse, and they know John Jones’s Social Security number. They can easily get a fake ID that has John Jones’s address on it, and they can submit it into the system, and nothing in E-Verify will stop that illegal immigrant from getting a job. Once they are in the system, they are approved time after time. What is more, nothing about E-Verify stops a citizen from loaning their identity to friends and family so they can get a job. We need a biometric system, with a picture and a biometric identifier. That is the only way we will stop illegal immigration. E-Verify doesn’t do it.”
By a vote of 44-53, the motion to kill Sessions’ amendment was rejected. Of Democrats present, 43 voted to kill the amendment (including the most progressive senators) and 12 voted against. Every Republican present voted against killing the amendment. The end result is that Schumer’s motion to kill Sessions’ amendment failed, and debate on the bill continued.