10/10/2008 Short-Term Extension Of E-Verify Sets Up Big 2009 Battle


This comes from National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig.

A bruising partisan battle over an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws is expected to surface in the early days of the next Congress and new presidential administration, a clash that already has lawmakers, lobbyists and immigration advocates gearing up to fight. The stage was set in a little-noticed provision in the continuing resolution that Congress recently passed to keep the federal government functioning into March. The provision gives a short-term extension to the Homeland Security Department’s E-Verify program, which offers employers an online tool to verify the legal status of workers. The extension ends March 6 — a mere 45 days after either Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois or Republican candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona takes office. “Does a President McCain or Obama want to step in next March in the middle of a cat fight? Hell no,” one congressional aide said. Some lawmakers, mostly Republicans, sought a long-term extension of E-Verify. But others, mainly Democrats, wanted to add changes to immigration laws to any E-Verify legislation, such as a proposal to recapture unused visas. For now, the looming March deadline has all sides preparing to fight again. “Reauthorization of E-Verify will probably be the springboard for further debates. It’s probably unavoidable,” said one source who opposes expanding immigrant visas. “We expect immigration to come back to the fore next spring.”

In July, the House approved a bill reauthorizing E-Verify for five years. But Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., blocked the bill in the Senate in an effort to add a provision making hundreds of thousands of unused family visas dating back to 1992 available for use. Critics suspect Menendez was doing the bidding of Democratic leaders, who expect to win more congressional seats and possibly the White House in the upcoming elections. “It seems that there was a deliberate effort to punt these issues to the next administration with the hope for a better negotiating environment,” one source said. An aide to Menendez said the senator was fighting for something he believed in. “The approach to immigration reform can’t be unbalanced,” the aide said. “It can’t be things that are only targeted to the business communities. It needs to be fair to the families.”

In the end, Democrats argued that a short extension of E-Verify was all that could be done. But critics noted that Congress also approved a stand-alone bill at the end of September to extend to March 6 a visa program for religious workers who are not ministers. If Congress was able to pass that bill, they said, it should have been able to tackle other immigration measures. Some congressional aides also fear that state legislatures will quickly approve mandatory employment verification laws after they open their sessions in January. “The world outside of here is going to be spinning a thousand miles an hour,” one aide said. “We will have a massive employment verification requirement that state by state by state will be different.” Such actions by the states could complicate what happens in Congress. “I think everybody will admit that there’s going to be more Democrats around here next Congress.”