published : 2023-09-16

Some GOP Lawmakers Propose Minimum Wage Increase for Verifiable American Citizens

A similar bill introduced by the pair failed to gain steam in 2021

GOP lawmakers Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney discussing the minimum wage bill.

Renowned GOP senators, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Utah, have reintroduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage. However, their proposal comes with a unique condition: the wage increase would only apply to legal workers who can verify their American citizenship.

In a statement, Senator Cotton highlighted the need to address the unfair competition American workers face from millions of undocumented immigrants. He emphasized that ending the exploitation of illegal labor would create more job opportunities for Americans. By increasing the minimum wage, those filling these jobs would be better able to support their families.

The Higher Wages for American Workers Act of 2023 aims to incrementally raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour, the lowest amount allowed by federal law, to $11 over the next four years. The bill also includes provisions for regular adjustments based on inflation.

An American worker in a manufacturing facility, representing those who would benefit from the proposed wage increase.

This isn't the first time Senators Cotton and Romney have introduced such a bill. Their previous attempt in 2021 failed to gain traction in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The 2021 version proposed a raise to $10 an hour over the following three years, with the same requirement of legal status.

The revised bill accounts for the concerns of small businesses with fewer than 20 employees by proposing a slower implementation timeline. Additionally, it includes a provision mandating the use of 'E-Verify for all employers' to confirm citizenship. Employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants or violate I-9 paperwork rules would face penalties. Moreover, workers aged 18 and above would need to provide a photo ID, cross-referenced with their citizenship verification.

Senator Romney, who joined Senator Cotton in reintroducing the bill, cited the rising costs of living and the need for a federal minimum wage increase. He expressed a belief that such an increase should be accompanied by measures to ensure it benefits legal workers, protecting American jobs and addressing a driving force behind illegal immigration.

A small business owner using E-Verify software to ensure the legal status of their employees.

The bill's reintroduction took place just a few hours before Senator Romney announced his retirement. The proposal also has bipartisan support from GOP senators Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Shelley Moore Capito, and J.D. Vance.

While the Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a more ambitious bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $17 by 2028, several states including New York, California, and Massachusetts have been independently advocating for incremental increases to $20 or more.