White House Pulling Back on E-Verify to Get Democratic Votes

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By Laura D. Francis

Mandatory E-Verify and other interior enforcement provisions deliberately were left out of the White House immigration framework as a concession to garner Democratic votes, White House officials say.

These, along with allowing a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young, undocumented immigrants, were “dramatic concessions” the president made to get a deal done that would include other items from his immigration wish list, officials said during a Feb. 14 press call.

Those include funding for a border wall and other border security measures, limits on family-based immigration, and an end to the diversity visa lottery.

Legislation that would make the E-Verify electronic employment verification system mandatory is something the White House still hopes to get “at some point,” officials said. The administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal seeks funding to prep the system for use by all U.S. employers.

Senate Debate Starts

The White House officials spoke as the Senate began debate on the legislative framework (H.R. 2579), introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), that contains the immigration changes President Donald Trump is seeking.

Democrats and some Republicans are opposed to the proposal’s cuts to legal immigration, making it unclear whether the measure will get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

A separate bill (H.R. 4760), introduced earlier by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), does include mandatory E-Verify and other interior enforcement measures. The president supports that bill as well but wants something that can get Democratic support in the Senate, White House officials said.

Meanwhile, another group of senators led by Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) say they’ve reached a deal that would provide legal status to Dreamers and $25 billion for a border wall, without any cuts to legal immigration.

Hatch Offers Skilled Visa Amendments

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) separately is pushing for the immigration deal to include provisions on high-skilled foreign workers. The proposed amendments--which are contained in a bill (S. 2344) he introduced in January--are in line with the president’s calls for a merit-based immigration system, Hatch said in a Feb. 14 statement.

Hatch’s amendments would stop foreign workers with advanced degrees from counting against the annual cap on H-1B high-skilled guestworker visas. His amendments also would allow work permits for the spouses of H-1B workers who are waiting for their green cards, allow greater job mobility for workers in the green card backlog, and eliminate the per-country cap on employment-based green cards.

The amendments also would put in place certain restrictions on employers with high numbers of H-1B workers and create penalties for failing to employ an H-1B worker for more than three months during the first year of his or her work authorization.

A representative for the White House didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment on the Hatch amendments.

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