E-Verify Bills Advancing in Iowa
FAIR Take | March 2022
The state legislature in Iowa has recently seen significant progress on bills that would require employers to use the federal E-Verify employment authorization check system to ensure a legal workforce.
The need for E-Verify in Iowa was particularly highlighted in 2018 by the tragic death of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts at the hands of an illegal alien who had been working at an Iowa farm for years. Had his employer been required to use E-Verify, he might well have not been in the country at all.
Since Mollie’s murder, E-Verify legislation in Iowa has been introduced in every legislative session. Disappointingly each time it has failed to get all the way through the process. In 2019, an E-Verify bill passed the Iowa Senate but stalled in the House of Representatives.
The sponsor of the 2019 bill, Senator Julian Garrett (R-Indianola), reintroduced E-Verify legislation, Senate File (SF) 339, early in the 2021 session. This bill, like in prior sessions, would mandate that all employers in Iowa apply E-Verify. In the 2022 carryover year, SF 339 has started to move. On January 25, the bill was approved by a three-member Senate Judiciary Subcommittee. The full committee passed it along a party-line vote on February 2.
This year is different from previous legislative sessions which only had a bill in one chamber. SF 339 has a House companion bill, House Study Bill (HSB) 635, which was introduced on February 1 by the House Committee on Human Resources and its chairwoman, Representative Ann Meyer (R-Fort Dodge). HSB 635 passed a three-member subcommittee on February 15, but hasn’t yet received a full committee vote.
Sen. Garrett, the Senate bill sponsor, said in February that he has also been working to get the House bill moving, and added, “[a]s you might expect there is opposition from those who want to hire people in the country illegally.”
Governor Kim Reynolds (R) has expressed openness for years to Iowa requiring E-Verify and would almost certainly sign such a bill if she received one, though she has said she would ideally prefer a federal nationwide E-Verify mandate.
The Iowa legislature is currently scheduled to adjourn on April 19, leaving plenty of time for E-Verify to pass both chambers.