WASHINGTON, March 30, 2015 – Legislation to make the E-Verify immigration system mandatory could split House Republicans unless it is accompanied by a bill to ensure farmers access to more legal foreign workers.

Fifty-five Republicans and six Democrats signed a March 26 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying that the two measures need to go together.

A bill (HR 1147) that would require employers to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of workers is one of a series of immigration measures moving out of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., which is taking an enforcement-first approach to scheduling the bills.

The committee approved the E-Verify bill on a party-line vote, 20-13, so there’s likely to be little or no Democratic support on the floor.

The committee is expected to consider legislation later to expand the availability of foreign agricultural workers, but farm groups say the bill needs to move hand in hand with E-Verify.

“While we agree with the need to stem the flow of illegal immigration and are supportive of measures like E-Verify, implementing mandatory E-Verify without also enacting strong reforms ensuring our farmers have access to a legal, reliable and stable workforce will cause serious problems for our domestic agricultural industry and our nation’s economy,” wrote the lawmakers, many of whom represent dairy-producing areas in the Midwest and Northeast.

The letter goes on to say it is “imperative that any effort to implement mandatory E-Verify be coupled with a solution to agriculture’s unique labor needs.”

The letter echoes concerns raised by more than 140 food and agriculture groups in an earlier letter to House leaders.

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