Last week the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 1147, the Legal Workforce Act. The bill requires employers, including farm employers, to check the work eligibility of all future hires through the web-based E-Verify system. NJFB contacted each NJ House member expressing our opposition, and asked that they oppose E-Verify legislation until comprehensive ag labor reforms are enacted. The following are a few reasons farm bureau opposes an E-Verify stand-alone bill, even if it included an exemption for agriculture:
1) Farm Bureau opposes legislation that would mandate E-verify without providing agricultural employers access to a legal current workforce and a new temporary worker program. We will urge all members to vote “No” if such stand-alone E-Verify legislation is brought up in committee or on the floor of the House. We do not support an exemption for agriculture.
2) An agriculture exemption does nothing to give agriculture stability in our labor force. Only legislation creating an agricultural worker program can do that.
3) Agriculture employers want to play by the rules, but do not have access to a legal workforce. A carve-out only places a target on our backs throughout the political process and, once law, would make agriculture a target for ICE enforcement, being the only industry without mandatory E-Verify.
4) In this political climate, farmers and ranchers have lost confidence that an ag carve-out would withstand the process to be signed into law. The practical implication of being subject to mandatory E-Verify without a workable solution to our labor needs is too devastating to the industry to risk advocating for an exemption without a solution.
5) Also, if enforcement only moves we do not have confidence there will be an inclination to move legislation that addresses the ag labor crisis.