REPS. GALLEGLY, LUNGREN, BILBRAY TO REAP WHAT THEY SOW
Mandatory E-Verify Push Dangerous for CA Economy, GOP Members of Congress
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently called U.S. immigration policy "national
suicide," in light of the missed opportunities to strengthen our economy and communities
through common sense immigration reform. By championing mass deportation policies like
mandatory E-Verify and blocking comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, California
Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Dan Lungren (R-CA), and Brian Bilbray (R-CA) are helping
to prove Mayor Bloomberg's point.
The consequences of mandatory E-Verify for California’s agriculture industry would be
particularly dire. But interestingly enough, passing legislation like mandatory E-Verify could
also have serious political consequences for Gallegly, Lungren, Bilbray and other California
Republicans—a form of political suicide as well.
The battle around forced E-Verify will begin in Congress this summer, as House Judiciary
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) advances his bill, H.R. 2164, the Legal Workforce Act.
A Senate version that goes even further was introduced by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).
Reps. Gallegly and Lungren are poised to determine the fate of this legislation, given their seats
on the House Judiciary Committee. They are both cosponsors of the Smith bill. Rep. Bilbray,
while not a member of the Committee, is chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus –
the self-appointed champions of enforcement-only immigration policy in the U.S. House. Each
of them are also heading into tough 2012 re-election battles, and taking a position on
immigration reform that is at odds with a growing number of voters in their own backyards.
Mandatory E-Verify may sound benign to the layperson, but it is actually the centerpiece of
anti-immigrant restrictionists’ mass deportation agenda. Their goal to drive 11 million
undocumented immigrants and their families out of the country – including over 3 million
agricultural workers alone. The plan is derived from the belief that immigrants—predominantly
Latino immigrants—are bad for this country and should be forced to leave by any means
Of course, passing mandatory E-Verify is not going to force millions of Latino immigrants to
leave the country; it will simply send more jobs and workers into the cash economy and
completely destabilize California’s agriculture industry. It will also send even more Latino
voters into the arms of Democrats, as Republicans like Gallegly, Lungren, and Bilbray identify
themselves with the forced deportation approach instead of practical, comprehensive
Not only is this a bad policy choice for California, but supporting a warmed over mass
deportation approach is a bad political choice for Reps. Gallegly, Lungren, and Bilbray as well.
Given the way their congressional districts are changing due to demographic trends and
redistricting, the smarter move for these California Republicans would be to point the GOP
toward an inclusive, fair, and practical immigration solution instead of championing the
restrictionists’ cause in Congress.
About This Report
In the following pages, read why the forced E-Verify approach as advocated by Reps. Gallegly,
Lungren, Bilbray, and their allies in Congress is a potential disaster for the nation’s economy – in
particular, California’s precious agriculture industry.
Then, read why the same approach is also a precarious political move for California
Republicans, who are increasingly shooting themselves in the foot with Latino voters. In fact,
out of the thirty Republican co-sponsors of the Smith E-Verify bill as of July 11, 2011, 33% (ten)
are from California.
From both a policy and political perspective, Gallegly, Lungren, Bilbray and other Republicans
pushing for the ineffective, costly, and burdensome forced E-Verify program are heading
Section I – How Forced E-Verify Will Destroy California’s Ag Industry
The National Toll
The mandatory E-Verify legislation supported by Gallegly, Lungren, Bilbray, and others would
force every member of the U.S. workforce, American citizens and non-citizen workers alike, to
ask a deeply flawed government database for permission to work.
This approach focuses on the wrong targets – namely legal American workers – while driving
undocumented workers further into the underground economy. It also fails to do what it’s
supposed to, identifying undocumented workers less than half the time. Meanwhile, the
program does erroneously flag legal American workers as undocumented, forcing millions of
legal workers to have to haggle with government bureaucrats to correct their records and be
able to work.
Right now only 4% of all businesses and 2% of small businesses in America use E-Verify.
Imagine the costs and consequences for legal workers and law-abiding businesses as this
program moves to 100% implementation in just a few short years. The National Immigration
Law Center estimates that up to 415,486 legal workers in California would be unable to work
because of E-Verify errors. Foreign-born legal workers (34.5% of California’s workforce)—
including naturalized citizens—would be disproportionately harmed by this legislation, as their
error rates are twenty times higher than those of native-born workers.
Not only would mandatory E-Verify cost hundreds of thousands of legal workers their jobs, but
it would cost taxpayers more than $17 billion in lost revenue, as more jobs move into the cash
economy. In addition, the plan would cost small businesses an estimated $2.6 billion to
implement. That’s $2.6 billion they have to spend on government regulation, not job creation.
Killing California Businesses
Currently, E-Verify is used by 3.4% of California businesses – even fewer than the national
average of 4%. It’s not hard to see why. As devastating as E-Verify’s impact will be on the
national economy, it will be especially harsh on California businesses.
California’s economy is overwhelmingly driven by small business: 99.2% of California employers
are small businesses. These are the employers that would shoulder much of the $2.6 billion
implementation cost, paying for everything from new human resources staff to administer the
program to high-speed Internet access. California businesses are aware of this, which is why
they’ve been vocally opposed to E-Verify and worked to halt its expansion at the state and
In spring 2011, California Assembly Member Paul Fong introduced a state bill that would
prevent the state of California or any local government from instituting mandatory E-Verify. The
bill was supported by many local business interests, and a coalition of fifteen business and
agricultural associations, led by the California Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to the
Assembly Labor and Employment Committee backing the bill. The businesses wrote that:
“Numerous reports have raised disturbing questions about the accuracy of the
databases used by the E-Verify system and about the system’s persistently high error
rate. We believe E-Verify is not yet sufficiently reliable enough to cope with the massive
increase in usage that a usage mandate in a large state like California would create.”
In addition to the California Chamber of Commerce, the letter was signed by groups from the
California Association of Bed and Breakfast Inns to the California Independent Grocers
Devastating the Agriculture Industry
Mandatory E-Verify would effectively destroy one of California’s key industries—agriculture—
by sending farms and jobs overseas and expanding the importation of food from other
countries. Gallegly, Lungren, and Bilbray’s goal is essentially to clear the state and the country
of existing and experienced farm workers, then replace them via an employer-friendly rehash of
the infamous bracero program that would lower wages and labor standards even further.
It is no secret that the agriculture industry is dependent on undocumented workers. As many
as 75% of farm workers in California are undocumented. Imagining life after E-Verify,
Sacramento-area grower David Vierra told a local news station, "Good luck finding anybody
willing to work…We've tried many, many times (to hire Americans). They last a half a day and
we never see them again. Sometimes, they don't even come back for their pay."
House Republicans describe mandatory E-Verify legislation as a jobs bill, but in fact it would kill
millions of jobs and destroy the entire agriculture industry. Each on-farm job generates three
additional jobs upstream or downstream, many of which are held by Americans. What’s more,
replacing long-time farm workers with H-2A guest workers—House Republicans’ “answer” to
their self-created labor crisis in agriculture—does nothing to help American workers find good
jobs in humane conditions. Our country needs policies that empower workers and improve
labor conditions, not generate a race to the bottom.
Not only would mandatory E-Verify send jobs and farms overseas, but it would expand our
nation’s reliance on importing food from overseas. A recent study from UC-Davis and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture examined California’s already-struggling asparagus industry and
found that, with stricter enforcement of immigration laws against undocumented farm
workers, “imports are likely to displace more U.S. fresh asparagus production and further
reduce labor demand for this crop. Asparagus may follow the path of green onions, a labor-
intensive commodity only rarely grown in the United States now. Almost all green onions
consumed in the United States are imported from Mexico.”
It’s not surprising that as the debate over E-Verify has heated up at the state and national
levels, California growers are fighting back. Several associations that signed on to the California
Chamber of Commerce’s letter supporting anti-E-Verify legislation in the state’s Assembly this
year were agricultural groups, including the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Agricultural
Council of California and Western Growers.
Reacting to the legislation sponsored by Reps. Gallegly, Lungren, and Bilbray, the president of
Western Growers of Irvine told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that “to say that we're going to use E-
Verify without giving you a legal means to citizenship, the message there is, We want
consumers to buy foreign food.” In the same article, a spokeswoman for the California
Strawberry Commission agreed that E-Verify would “cause some problems” for the strawberry
A far better approach than mandatory E-Verify and H-2A “reform” would be passing the labor-
management compromise bill known as AgJOBS. With champions among California Democrats
Rep. Howard Berman and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and strong support from both growers and
farm worker advocates, this legislation would stabilize the existing, experienced farm workforce
and provide employers with access to new workers when needed. Unfortunately, Gallegly,
Lungren, and Bilbray have yet to state their support for this common sense plan.
Doing for the Nation and California What’s Been Done to Georgia?
The Gallegly-Lungren-Bilbray plan threatens to do for California what Georgia is already
experiencing today. In Georgia, the state's new mandatory E-Verify law has lead to a labor
crisis that is forcing the state to place probationers in the fields to replace the experienced
immigrants who are afraid to come to work.
Yet, as a recent Associated Press piece documents, this approach is "yielding mixed results.”
One crew leader on a Georgia cucumber field expressed his frustration saying some of the new
workers “just left, took off across the field walking. If I’m going to depend on the probation
people, I’m never going to get the crops up.”
According to Charles Hall, director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association, the law is "a
tremendous burden to our farmers." CBS News traveled to Georgia, documenting footage of
crops rotting due to labor shortages and hearing the impact on the businesses of growers like
blackberry farmer Gary Paulk, who said, "There's a lot of what appear to be good berries. If we
had the workers." Pointing to a corner of the family farm where twenty acres of blackberries
were rotting, Paulk said, "This is a healthy field. And it should have been picked. But there's
According to Charles Hall, "Fruits and vegetables in Georgia were worth $1.1 billion. We could
see a $200 (million) to $250 million loss, potentially. The consumer may or may not see a
difference in price."
The experiences of Georgia farmers provide just a preview of what California growers can
expect if the Gallegly-Lungren-Bilbray plan becomes law.
Section II – The Political Consequences of the GOP’s Anti-Immigration Push
Not Learning Their Lesson – Driving Latino Voters to Democrats
By entrusting the Republican Party’s immigration agenda to people like Reps. Lamar Smith (R-
TX), Elton Gallegly, Dan Lungren, and Brian Bilbray, the GOP couldn’t come up with a better way
to lose the Latino vote if it tried. Rep. Smith has tried to rewrite history, claiming that Latino
voters don’t really care about immigration and don’t really matter in elections. But Gallegly,
Lungren, Bilbray and other Republicans in the California congressional delegation are risking
their political careers following his advice. One only needs to look at the results of the 2010
elections, and the handling of the immigration issue by both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina,
for fresh evidence as to why.
Despite Smith’s protestations to the contrary, a June 2011 poll from Latino Decisions and
impreMedia shows that immigration continues to be the top issue for Latino voters, the fastest-
growing segment of the electorate, beating jobs and the economy by 16 points. And by a 65%
to 19% margin, more Latino voters trust Democrats than Republicans on the issue.
In 2010, Meg Whitman’s hypocrisy on the immigration issue marked the turning point in her
losing campaign for governor, and offered a case study about the dangers of anti-immigrant
campaigning. Whitman later acknowledged that her Party needs to change its strategy on
immigration, stating "the immigration discussion, the rhetoric the Republican Party uses, is not
helpful; it's not helpful in a state with the Latino population we have...We as a party are going
to have to make some changes, how we think about immigration, and how we talk about
immigration." In 2010, Jerry Brown’s winning margin over Whitman among Latinos ended up
being a whopping 86% - 13%, in no small part because of Whitman’s wobbly stances on
The same was true in other states last year, and Latino voters are largely credited for ending
the Republican wave at the Rockies and keeping the Senate in Democratic hands.
The 2010 Census data make clear that the problem will only get worse for California
Republicans unless and until they chart a new course. Between 2000 and 2010, the Latino
population of California grew by 28% to its current level of over fourteen million people. Latino
population growth was over 90% of the Golden State’s overall population growth, and Latinos
now constitute approximately 38% of the overall state population. Additionally, as National
Journal pointed out, these trends are certain to increase, as 51 percent of Californians younger
than 18 are Latino.
Elton Gallegly – Cementing an Anti-Immigrant Legacy?
The changing demographics are occurring right before Rep. Elton Gallegly’s eyes, although his
policy proposals don’t seem to acknowledge these developments. According to the Ventura
County Star, the Latino population in Ventura County—in Gallegly’s own district—surged over
the last decade “from 33 percent of all residents in 2000 to 40 percent in 2010.” As a vocal
champion and cosponsor of mandatory E-Verify legislation, and chair of the House Immigration
Subcommittee that is pushing this and other anti-immigrant legislation through Congress,
Gallegly is on shaky ground to reach out to this fast-growing segment of the population.
Now, it appears as though the redistricting process in California may spell bad news for Rep.
Gallegly as well. As the Washington Post analyzed after the Citizens Redistricting Commission
issued its proposed congressional districts for California, “There really isn’t a good option for
Gallegly. He’s drawn into Rep. Buck McKeon’s (R) district with no nearby and vacant Republican
district to which to switch. If he runs, it’s likely in an open and Democratic-leaning Ventura
County district to the south. But that’s a tough campaign, and Gallegly has been close to
retirement in recent years. Many expect him to call it quits if he is dealt such a hand.”
For Rep. Gallegly, if this is his congressional swan song, it’s a curious form of legacy that he’s
trying to leave behind – to further drive a wedge between your Party and the fastest growing
demographic group of voters in your district, your state, and your country, while destroying the
agricultural base of California and the nation.
The Curious Case of Dan Lungren
Back in the early 1980s, during Dan Lungren’s first stint in Congress, he supported immigration
reform – just like his fellow Californian, then-President Ronald Reagan. In fact, Lungren
challenged then Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL) during a 1983 congressional hearing on immigration,
saying “Clay, you referred to the amnesty provision. I hope you'll allow me to refer to it as the
legalization provision. I happen to think there's a world of difference in the two. You believe
that it ought to be dropped. My question is: What do we then do with the large number of
undocumented aliens who have been in this country for an appreciable period of time?”
The mid-80’s Lungren also cautioned against programs to turn state and local police into
deportation agents, saying at the same 1983 hearing, “I know in our area of the country many
of the local jurisdictions of law enforcement were very concerned about the fear that people in
the illegal community or undocumented community had about approaching local law
enforcement with complaints of victimization. That is, they were afraid to come forward to
point out people had taken advantage of them in a criminal sense because they were afraid
they would then be revealed as being here illegally.”
These days, Rep. Dan Lungren has turned into a vocal opponent of comprehensive immigration
reform, and a co-sponsor of mandatory E-Verify legislation that is supposed to drive millions of
Latino immigrants out of the country.
So what happened to Rep. Lungren? With the demographic explosion of Latino voters in his
district and state and their unwavering support for sensible immigration reform, it surely would
be better political positioning if he returned to his mid-80s positions. Yet instead, he is now
unabashed about his anti-immigrant views.
As Lungren faces a difficult re-election campaign due to redistricting – he is likely moving into a
new and more Democratic district – his recent championing of mandatory E-Verify is curious for
two reasons. First of all, it threatens to galvanize Latinos – 11% of voters in his current and
potential new district -- to his own political detriment. Secondly, it threatens the viability of the
agricultural industry in California.
Brian Bilbray—Representing Washington’s Anti-Immigrant Movement, Not His District
Unlike his colleagues Reps. Gallegly and Lungren, Brian Bilbray does not sit on the House
Judiciary Committee. But Bilbray is a proud co-sponsor of Smith’s E-Verify bill. While he’s
hardly alone among California’s Republican delegation (see next section), Bilbray’s history of
dangerous liaisons and insensitive statements make him an especially bad face for the GOP.
After being booted from Congress in 2000, Bilbray got a spot as the Co-Chairman of the
National Board of Advisors for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR is
the “lobbying arm” of the network of Washington-based organizations founded by John Tanton;
the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FAIR as a hate group, and labeled Tanton a
white nationalist. FAIR paid Bilbray a handsome sum to spread its message—he got $72,000
from the group in 2002 for lobbying. Upon his return to Congress after a special election in
2006, Bilbray treated the anti-immigrant lobby, not Californians, as his real constituents as the
head of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, a group of members of Congress who want to
keep and expand our current, broken enforcement-only immigration system.
While Gallegly and Lungren prefer to let their extreme policy positions do the talking, Bilbray
has a talent for inflammatory and revealing statements. During the national controversy over
Arizona’s infamous S.B. 1070 in the spring of 2010, which would have allowed police officers to
check the papers of anyone they had a “reasonable suspicion” could be undocumented, one
reporter asked Bilbray how police officers would be able to tell that someone was
undocumented without using racial profiling. He replied, ludicrously, that officers could spot
undocumented immigrants by looking at their shoes: “They will look at the kind of dress you
wear, there’s different type of attire, there’s different type of…right down to the shoes.”
Later that year, during the congressional debate over the DREAM Act, Bilbray wrote a post on
The Hill’s blog blaming DREAM supporters for the mass murder of migrant workers by Mexican
“Unfortunately, some people in Congress and in the business community share the
responsibility for the murders. When my colleagues talk about providing amnesty (or ‘a
pathway to citizenship’) they become an accessory to these murders. When they
support amnesty, introduce bills that provide a pathway to citizenship and, in the most
irresponsible of cases, use amnesty to motivate voters, they tell people: ‘work with the
cartels and come across our border illegally, for we will eventually give you amnesty and
citizenship.’ This talk of amnesty is not only an insult to every American who has come
to the United States legally and the millions who wait patiently while playing by the
rules, but is in part what makes it possible for the cartels to murder those 72 innocent
Even though 18% of voters in California’s 50th District are Hispanic, the district’s Republican tilt
kept Bilbray in office last cycle. Under the proposed redistricting, however, Bilbray has been
drawn into the district of fellow Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. Bilbray will probably run
in an adjoining vacant district, but observers say he faces an uphill battle—the district is
Democratic-leaning and 51% Latino. Bilbray’s anti-immigration advocacy will be a huge liability
for him, making a tough election even tougher in the face of new demographics—a telling
illustration of the fate of the state’s Republican Party writ large if it clings to Bilbray-esque anti-
They’re Far From Outliers – Disturbing Support for Forced E-Verify Among CA GOP Members
While Gallegly and Lungren sit on the Judiciary Committee and are poised to play a key role in
helping this legislation advance through the House, they are not alone. Many Republican
Members of the Golden State’s congressional delegation are firmly behind the economic and
political disaster that is mandatory E-Verify.
Rep. Smith’s mandatory E-Verify bill has been cosponsored by the following California
• Rep. Brian Bilbray (CA-50)
• Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-44)
• Rep. John Campbell (CA-48)
• Rep. Elton Gallegly (CA-24)
• Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-52)
• Rep. Jerry Lewis (CA-41)
• Rep. Dan Lungren (CA-3)
• Rep. Gary Miller (CA-42)
• Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46)
• Rep. Edward Royce (CA-40)
Of the thirty co-sponsors of Smith’s E-Verify bill (all Republicans) as of July 11, 2011, 33% (ten of
thirty) are from California.
What is it about the California GOP that its membership in the U.S. House would gladly burden
small businesses with new costs and regulations, destroy their home state’s agriculture
industry, tie up job seekers in mountains of red tape, and take billions of dollars in revenue
from the federal tax coffers—all for a program that doesn’t even work to identify
One would assume the answer is politics. But in this case, the politics of this issue are working
against the California GOP. It’s up to Gallegly, Lungren, Bilbray, and the others to realize that.
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