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Comprehensive Immigration Reform: the danger of E-Verify

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May 16, 2013   BORDC   Everify

Over the next several weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Comprehensive Immigration Reform (S744), which would include a mandatory E-Verify system.  E-Verify is an internet-based program accessed by employers when processing new hires.  It compares information from an Employee’s Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data from U.S. government records.  The potential for E-Verify to become compulsory is quite controversial for several reasons – namely its disregard for personal privacy, the unnecessary obstacles it imposes to employment, and the fundamental change that it would signify in the relationship between U.S. government and U.S. citizen.

While allegedly created to target undocumented individuals, E-Verify would negatively affect documented U.S. citizens as well.  Every job applicant would have to face an E-Verify background check, and unless the system is 100% accurate 100% of the time, these background checks will become a nightmare.  Chris Calabrese, Senior Legislative Counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union explains:

When you make a giant list of everybody who’s able to work in the United States, that list has to be completely accurate, because if there are mistakes in it, the result is those mistakes – those mistaken people can’t work.

These citizens will be required to petition the government to correct the mistake, creating a bureaucratic nightmare that will likely stall their job hunting process by weeks (if not longer).  Calabrese calls this the “prove yourself to work” system that will hurt ordinary citizens.  This signifies a fundamental shift in relationship between government and populace – no longer are we innocent until proven guilty. We are now guilty until proven worthy of a job.  Gone will be the days of applying for a job, waiting on a quick background check, and becoming employed – now all citizens will have to wait for I-9s to be verified against a massive list of personal information housed by the government.

Beyond undue obstacles to employment lies an even more frightening truth about E-Verify: the invasion of privacy.  Shahid Buttar wrote in a previous article that Comprehensive Immigration Reform would likely become a Trojan Horse for larger government surveillance, and E-Verify is just one manifestation of that government surveillance.  Involving the government in something as routine as application for employment unnecessarily involves political bureaucracy in one’s personal life.  More disconcerting, though, is the fact that so much personal information would be available from a single database – a dream for identity thieves.

E-Verify is but one example of how the new programs proposed in Comprehensive Immigration Reform would affect all U.S. citizens, not merely a small percentage of undocumented individuals.  Like Next Generation Initiative (NGI), which would track individuals from city to city, scan not just fingerprints but irises and scars to help track and identify individuals, E-Verify signifies a broadening state of surveillance.  In an article about NGI’s expansion of biometric databases, Alternet wrote, “Advancements in the collection of biometric data are double-edged: there’s the treat of a massive government surveillance infrastructure working too well – e.g., surveillance state – and there are concerns about its weaknesses, especially in keeping data secure.”  The same can be said for E-Verify; it would likely be the gateway to a growing surveillance state, and the information stored within E-Verify would be susceptible to hacking.   While this country is in dire need of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, we must be wary of “enforcement-first” immigration policies like NGI and E-Verify, which will only infringe on the rights of American citizens.

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