The immigration issue has heated up in Washington, D.C. U.S. federal immigration agents issued inspection notices to hundreds of businesses across 17 sectors, including food and agriculture, last month.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement, “The inspections will touch on employers of all sizes and in every state in the nation, with an emphasis on businesses related to critical infrastructure and key resources.”

The announced crackdown comes on the heels of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) this week introducing the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164), a bill that Smith says “could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans and legal immigrants.” According to Smith’s website, the legislation improves the E-Verify system and makes it mandatory for all U.S. employers.

“With unemployment at 9 percent, jobs are scarce,” Smith says. “Despite record unemployment, 7 million people work in the United States illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers. E-Verify is a successful program to help ensure that jobs are reserved for citizens and legal workers. The ‘E’ in E-Verify could just as well stand for ‘easy’ and ‘effective.’ It takes just a few minutes to use and easily confirms 99.5 percent of work-eligible employees. There is no other legislation that can be enacted that will create more jobs for American workers.”

According to Smith’s office, Americans overwhelmingly support making E-Verify mandatory. The news release cites a recent Rasmussen poll, showing 82 percent of likely voters think businesses should be required to use E-Verify.

Not all food and agriculture groups favor mandatory use of the E-Verify system, but in an editorial last year American Meat Institute President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle expressed support. “E-Verify is the only electronic data-based system available to ensure that employers hire only those authorized to work in the United States,” Boyle notes. And much like a merchant can swipe a credit card when a purchase is made — and that purchase is either authorized or not — E-Verify allows employers to verify the Social Security numbers of new employees after they are hired.”