A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would make e-Verify mandatory for all businesses.

Is mandatory e-Verify another nail in the coffin?Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and chief sponsor of the Legal Workforce Act, H.R. 2164, says the bill would open up jobs for unemployed American and legal immigrants.

“With unemployment at 9 percent, jobs are scarce. Despite record unemployment, seven million people work in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers,” Smith said in a recent statement.

The bill is opposed by many agricultural groups. Some conclude that mandatory e-Verify would destroy the agricultural industry. In a recent newspaper article, Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers Association, stated that mandatory e-Verify would decimate the produce industry. Greg Wickham, chief executive officer of Dairylea Cooperative, says that the dairy industry would be in even worse shape than the produce industry.

Western Growers and Dairylea are not alone in their concerns. United Farm Workers Union and the Farmworker Justice are worried that a mandatory e-Verify bill will harm farmworkers. They point out that more than one-half of the nation’s seasonal farmworkers are undocumented.

“We don’t think mandatory e-Verify is the answer,” says a spokesperson for the United Farm Workers Union. “We think the answer is comprehensive immigration reform such as AgJobs.”

Legislation like, H.R. 2164 simply points out the need for the passage of some type of comprehensive immigration reform, says Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of the Western United Dairymen. Unfortunately, AgJobs has yet to gain the traction it needs to pass, he says.

“This is very short-sighted regulation,” Marsh says of the mandatory e-Verify proposal.

Opponents to H.R. 2164 agree that undocumented workers in agriculture cannot be replaced by Americans, since many of the jobs are ones that Americans don’t want to do. Case in point: The recent “Take Our Jobs” campaign that was launched last year to entice Americans to take agriculture jobs. Out of 8,600 inquiries, only 11 people took jobs in the field.

On June 15, the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement had a hearing on H.R. 2164, but no representatives of agriculture were asked to testify. In the week following the bill's introduction, Smith met with leaders in the agriculture industry and pledged to work with them going forward.