While Republicans are generally more skeptical of wage increases, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, re-introduced a bill this week to raise the minimum wage only for legal workers who verify their American citizenship.
“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low — that’s unfair,” Cotton said in a statement this week. “Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans. Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families.”
The Higher Wages for American Workers Act of 2023 proposes a minimum wage hike from $7.25 an hour — the lowest amount allowed by federal law — to $11 over the next four years, followed by regular adjustments for inflation. The duo first introduced the bill in 2021, but it did not receive further movement in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The 2021 version of the bill proposed an increase to $10 an hour over the following three years with the same legal status requirements.
The revised bill proposes a slower implementation for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, should it become law, and would mandate the use of “E-Verify for all employers” to confirm citizenship.
The legislation would also penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and violate I-9 paperwork rules. It would also require workers aged 18 and above to provide a photo ID for verification, cross-referenced with the verification of their citizenship status.
“Despite rising costs of living, the federal minimum wage has not been increased in more than a decade, which has left millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet,” Romney said in a statement on Wednesday. “Additionally, requiring employers to use E-Verify would ensure that the wage increase goes to legal workers, which would protect American jobs and eliminate a key driver of illegal immigration.”
The bill was introduced just a few hours before Romney declared his retirement.
Other GOP senators cosponsoring the bill include Bill Cassidy, R-La., Susan Collins R-Maine, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., and J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.
In July, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $17 by 2028. Sanders strongly criticized the existing $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage, referring to it as a “starvation wage.” The bill would create an annual income of $15,000 for a 40-hour workweek.
Labor unions in states like New York, California, and Massachusetts have been advocating for proposals in the last few years that, if approved, would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $20 or more. Increases in California would continue annually until 2029.