An interesting showdown is brewing between the newly elected House of Representatives and the White House over America's most pressing issues: jobs.
Before going further, here are some statistics to consider. The unemployment rate in California is 12.4 percent. In the San Joaquin Valley it's about 20 percent, and the nationwide U-6 unemployment rate is nearly 15 percent.
Economists give greatest value to the U-6 rate because it includes "discouraged workers" who have given up looking because they don't think they can find a job, and people who want full-time jobs but have settled for part-time.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, with the blessing of his Republican colleagues, has clearly identified his immediate action plan. Smith promises legislation that will expand E-Verify from a voluntary to a mandatory program.
E-Verify is the Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. Administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, Verification Division, and the Social Security Administration, E-Verify can instantly check whether an employee is legally authorized to hold his job or whether he may be an illegal alien.
By insisting that employers use E-Verify, the United States can show that it is serious about border security. Employers are bound by law to not hire illegal workers. Further, they have an incentive to join E-Verify to protect themselves from federal action, even though joining the program is not a full guarantee against legal action if alien employment continues at an E-Verify-registered employer's facilities.
Along with E-Verify, Smith would also like to restore the once common practice of workplace enforcement. Since heavy fines would be levied against employers found guilty of hiring illegal immigrants, the assumption is that more Americans would have greater job opportunities.
Here's how Smith puts it: (Jobs and internal enforcement) are what I call 70 percent issues — 70 percent or more of the American people support those efforts. I think they are popular across the board, and I think they will be appreciated by all American workers regardless of their ethnicity or background or anything else."
What Smith is saying is that the majority of Americans favor putting Americans back to work. But who might the other 30 percent be?
They are several. Among them, Congressional Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama.
Reid heads a Senate with a much narrower majority than he enjoyed before the November election and Pelosi also operates from a less influential position. Nevertheless, both are still powerful.
Obama is the wild card in the equation. Back in 2009, when the $789 billion stimulus package was drafted, the original Senate and House versions had provisions for E-Verify to be used for all federal contract jobs. But by the time the final Senate version reached Obama's desk, E-Verify had been deleted, likely at his behest.
Still, momentum is on the side of E-Verify. Approximately 20 states use E-Verify and more than 50,000 businesses have enrolled in the employment verification program since October 2009.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, some 8 million illegal aliens hold U.S. jobs. Proponents say the online E-Verify system should be interpreted as cheap, effective jobs program.
Smith's E-Verify bill is certain to pass the House and, although it will face a closer Senate vote, is likely to become law unless Obama wants to stick his neck out to veto it, a tall order in an economy with 10 percent unemployment.
Joe Guzzardi, an E-verified employee, is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.