WASHINGTON U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, PA-11, strongly opposes a new bill that extends the federal E-Verify program because it guts the rights of states and municipalities to enact and enforce laws that punish those who knowingly employ illegal aliens.

The Legal Workforce Act, introduced in the U.S. House on Tuesday, would pre-empt state and local laws, prohibiting states like Arizona and municipalities like Hazleton from investigating and suspending the business licenses of employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. On top of that, the tiny amount of authority that the bill appears to give to states (taking licenses from employers who fail to use E-Verify) is illusory. As written, the bill states the federal government must enforce the E-Verify law against a particular business before a state or municipality can take away the business' license. If the federal government refuses to act, states and municipalities can't take any action.

"On paper, the Legal Workforce Act sounds good, but in reality it will be just another law the federal government doesn't enforce. If this bill becomes law, states and municipalities will be powerless without the federal government acting first. Waiting for the federal government to enforce its own immigration laws is how we got into this mess in the first place. Sadly, we cannot expect the federal government to finally wake up and start doing its job when it comes to immigration enforcement," Barletta said.

"Three weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Arizona acted well within its right to target businesses that hired illegal immigrants when it passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court vacated a ruling against the City of Hazleton's Illegal Immigration Relief Act and sent the case back the circuit court for review in light of the high court's Arizona opinion. Momentum is clearly on our side. But this bill will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory," he said. "The Supreme Court says state and local laws can be enforced, and now the federal government wants to take that power away. We cannot allow this to happen.

"The federal government knows the states and cities will enforce the law because they're the ones bearing the brunt of illegal immigration, and the American people know the federal government won't enforce its own immigration laws," Barletta said. "The Legal Workforce Act is a slap in the face of states like Arizona; Georgia; and Alabama; and cities like Hazleton, Pennsylvania; Valley Park, Missouri; and Fremont, Nebraska. The Legal Workforce Act pretends to solve the problem of illegal immigration, but in reality it will make it worse. I strongly oppose the Legal Workforce Act, and I'm encouraging my colleagues to do the same. This bill must be stopped."