From massive NSA spying, to IRS targeting of the administration's political opponents, to collection and sharing of our health care information as part of Obamacare, it seems every day we learn of another assault on our privacy. Sadly, this week the Senate took another significant, if little-noticed, step toward creating an authoritarian surveillance state. Buried in the immigration bill is a national identification system called mandatory E-Verify.
The Senate did not spend much time discussing E-Verify, and what little discussion took place was mostly bipartisan praise for its effectiveness as a tool for preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining employment. It is a tragedy that mandatory E-Verify is not receiving more attention, as it will impact nearly every American’s privacy and liberty.
The mandatory E-Verify system requires Americans to carry a “tamper-proof” social security card. Before they can legally begin a job, American citizens will have to show the card to their prospective employer, who will then have to verify their identity and eligibility to hold a job in the US by running the information through the newly-created federal E-Verify database. The database will contain photographs taken from passport files and state driver's licenses. The law gives federal bureaucrats broad discretion in adding other “biometric” identifiers to the database. It also gives the bureaucracy broad authority to determine what features the “tamper proof” card should contain.
Regardless of one’s views on immigration, the idea that we should have to ask permission from the federal government before taking a job ought to be offensive to all Americans. Under this system, many Americans will be denied the opportunity for work. The E-Verify database will falsely identify thousands as "ineligible," forcing many to lose job opportunities while challenging government computer inaccuracies. E-Verify will also impose additional compliance costs on American businesses, at a time when they are struggling with Obamacare implementation and other regulations.
According to David Bier of Competitive Enterprise Institute, there is nothing stopping the use of E-Verify for purposes unrelated to work verification, and these expanded uses could be authorized by agency rule-making or executive order. So it is not inconceivable that, should this bill pass, the day may come when you are not be able to board an airplane or exercise your second amendment rights without being run through the E-Verify database. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the personal health care information that will soon be collected by the IRS and shared with other federal agencies as part of Obamacare will also be linked to the E-Verify system.
Those who dismiss these concerns as paranoid should consider that the same charges were leveled at those who warned that the PATRIOT Act could lead to the government collecting our phone records and spying on our Internet usage. Just as the PATRIOT Act was only supposed to be used against terrorists but is now used to bypass constitutional protections in matters having noting to do with terrorism or national security, the national ID/mandatory E-Verify database will not only be used to prevent illegal immigrants from gaining employment. Instead, it will eventually be used as another tool to monitor and control the American people.
The recent revelations of the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans, plus recent stories of IRS targeting Tea Party and similar groups for special scrutiny, demonstrates the dangers of trusting government with this type of power. Creation of a federal database with photos and possibly other “biometric” information about American citizens is a great leap forward for the surveillance state. All Americans who still care about limited government and individual liberty should strongly oppose E-Verify.