Does E-Verify Expand the Surveillance State?

Ron Paul wrote this week that the national identification system called E-Verify 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.

 J.D. Tuccille at Reason is also critical of the system.

E-Verify is well on its way to becoming a national requirement. It’s also, as the American Civil Liberties Union points out, a big step toward creating a “permission society” in which the fundamental business of putting food on the table is a privilege to be granted or revoked by the government.

In a white paper detailing objections to E-Verify, the ACLU states:

E-Verify turns the relationship between the government and the people upside-down. In order to stop the tiny percentage of those starting jobs in the United States each year who are unauthorized workers, E-Verify would force everyone in the nation to obtain affirmative permission from the government before performing work and earning money.

Jim Harper of the Cato Institute warned of the dangers of E-Verify several years ago.

Even if a national employment eligibility verification system were workable, it is not a system we should want. Once built, this government monitoring system would soon be extended to housing, financial services, and other essentials to try to get at illegal immigrants. It would also be converted to policy goals well beyond immigration control. Direct regulatory power over American citizens would flow to the federal government. Even more information about Americans’ lives would flow into federal government databases. And sensitive personal data would be exposed to more security threats.

Harper says E-Verify won’t stem illegal immigration. Instead, it will “immerse America’s workers and businesses in Kafkaesque bureaucracy and erode the freedoms of the American citizen.”

What do you think? Is this just paranoia, or are we heading for more lost liberties, as Paul and others suggest?

  1. Bryan G. Stephens

    I think that the government has no place between an employer and employee. Let them contract for services.

    Employers should not be used as tax collectors or police.

  2. Civil Sense

    Agreed! Employers are not responsible for the nation’s failed immigration policy.

  3. Percival

     

    D.C. McAllister:

     J.D. Tuccille at Reasonis also critical of the system.

    E-Verify is well on its way to becoming a national requirement. It’s also, as the American Civil Liberties Union points out, a big step toward creating a “permission society” in which the fundamental business of putting food on the table is a privilege to be granted or revoked by the government.

    In a white paper detailing objections to E-Verify, the ACLU states:

    E-Verify turns the relationship between the government and the people upside-down. In order to stop the tiny percentage of those starting jobs in the United States each year who are unauthorized workers, E-Verify would force everyone in the nation to obtain affirmative permission from the government before performing work and earning money.

     

    And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

     Nothing to worry about.

  4. Byron Horatio

    Ron Paul is right. I second what Bryan says above and don’t have much to add. Another federal overstep.

  5. BrentB67

    Good comments, so what is the method by which we reduce the incentive for illegal immigrants to come here. Everybody thinks I am a stark raving mad man for suggesting we eliminate the federal welfare state so if we are not going to challenge eligibility to work and offer a welfare buffet, education, citizenship, and healthcare to illegal immigrants please be prepared to raise the Mexican flag over the entire southwest US.

     Edited for iPad issues.

  6. Scott Abel (formerly EstoniaKat)
    Estonia has an e-verify system. Any citizen or resident gets one of these cards:

    It can act as a travel document in the Schengen zone, it establishes that you are a citizen or a resident who is allowed to work. It also contains a electronic “signature” that allows you to sign legal documents. You can vote in elections through the Internet using that signature. It also contains your medical history for portabilities’ sake.

    There have been cases of identity theft, but no cases of the data being used for nefarious purposes. But my country has rather stringent laws regarding personal privacy that the U.S. does not. For example, the courts just decided a few months ago that the city of Tallinn could not collect metadata on the cards used for public transport service.

    Also, we’re a country of 1.3 million. I question whether it is scalable, or even desirable.

  7. R. Craigen

    If you want to kill eVerify, start a nationwide campaign to force voters to produce the card in order to vote.  Nobody will be able to argue that this is aimed at disenfranchising minorities, since it is a required document.  Dems will panic and backtrack on the requirement.

  8. Brian Clendinen

    As I have said it  before I will say it again. Immigration is the only major issue were Republicans and people who call themselves conservative are more progressive than the Democractric party. How many conservative talk show radio host have I heard demanding employment verfication? Every single one I have ever listened to.

    I do depise  this “No-Nothing” wing of the Republican party who have no problem with Tryanny when it comes to immigrants and by unintended  Consequences impose more Tryanny on citizens. I have yet to hear a politician propose a sensible immigration plan except maybe Newt who had some decent ideas but still a crappy overall policy.

  9. Paul Dougherty

    I have built a reputation with the people close to me. It has taken time and effort to build trust. It required face-to-face interaction, exchanges of give and take. Paperwork is not needed. I don’t have the time or the inclination to put this kind of  effort into building trust with every person I interact with on a day to day basis.  At some point I am going to require third party proof in order to speed up the building of confidence in a person. Certificates, letters, transcripts, licenses, references etc. To me, “off the grid” is to be merely communally insignificant. I don’t have a problem with the government keeping records on me. I have a problem with them misusing my records. I can’t stress enough how important it is that the IRS scandal be loudly, harshly, publicly delt with in the immediate. It cannot be allowed to pass with a shrug.

  10. Paul Dougherty

    Forgive me for not being more worried about e-verify, I live in a state that has no shortage of people who are so important and unique that they can’t risk allowing the “government” to know who they are. Ironically enough, they don’t fail to register for the annual Permanent Fund Dividend (each citizens fair share of the oil revenues).

  11. wmartin

    It’s a shame that our insanely lax immigration enforcement over a span of decades has forced us into this…but forced us into this it has.

  12. Hang On

    Why do you need a new system? Just have people apply for passports. I’ve provided my passport when applying for drivers license in a new state, for employment, and at banks. Seems to work well.

  13. Fred Cole

    The Cato Institute had an event on this called E-Verify’s Many Perils.

    It can be found here.

    Of course, we already talked about this issue here on Ricochet.

  14. Franco

    Not only will this expand the surveillance State, I’m increasingly convinced that this is the Holy Grail for the bill. It doesn’t do anything much in terms of solving the underlying problems, except for document everyone. Listen carefully to them. This is what they really want. Even the language they choose, “Undocumented”. That’s the true ‘crime’ for them.

  15. BrentB67
    wmartin: It’s a shame that our insanely lax immigration enforcement over a span of decades has forced us into this…but forced us into this it has. · 23 minutes ago

    Calling our immigration enforcement lax is being too kind, but it takes a lot more than enforcement.

    People are creative and resilient. It takes more than enforcement. We have to ask why are they coming here in such droves and stop some of the inducement.

    I hate the idea of the government getting involved in any business transaction including employment. If we want a nation of U.S. citizens with the same language moving toward a similar culture we can’t run a wide open employment office and welfare state unless we militarize every border, airport, and port and introduce GPS tracking devices to those on visas.

  16. Duane Oyen

    I have little respect for Ron Paul, middling respect for Reason, which is about 50% sensible and about 50% whacked-out Randian lunacy, and almost no respect for Cato, with a few exceptions for individual scholars like Pat Michaels.  Ever since I heard David Boaz on the radio spouting Truther BS, saying that Bush and Cheney had planted bombs to justify the wars, I have not paid much attention to the place, except to cheer on David Koch in his lawsuit.

    I am sick to death of those libertarian extremists who complain about absolutely everything that is necessary to successfully govern 350 million people.  Richard Epstein, a sensible libertarian, is correct about surveillance, and there is nothing wrong with E-Verify unless the Right goes crazy, throws a tantrum (as many did when TARP was being designed), and refuses to participate in the implementation regulations design.

  17. Fred Cole
    Duane Oyen:

    Ever since I heard David Boaz on the radio spouting Truther BS, 

    You’ve mentioned it before but never cited it.  Please cite something, I’ve very interested in reading it.

  18. Franco
    Duane Oyen: I have little respect for Ron Paul, middling respect for Reason, which is about 50% sensible and about 50% whacked-out Randian lunacy, and almost no respect for Cato, with a few exceptions for individual scholars like Pat Michaels.  Ever since I heard David Boaz on the radio spouting Truther BS, saying that Bush and Cheney had planted bombs to justify the wars, I have not paid much attention to the place, except to cheer on David Koch in his lawsuit.

    I am sick to death of those libertarian extremists who complain about absolutely everything that is necessary to successfully govern 350 million people.  

    Your lack of ‘respect’ is duly noted.Funny how those who use the appeal-to-authority arguments increasingly consider themselves authorities. I don’t see an argument here Duane. I see name-calling, mischaracterizations, and unfounded assertions: ..”everything that is necessary to successfully govern 350 million people.”

    How on earth have we survived so long without this?

    - whacked-out extremist libertarian

  19. John Grant
    C

    Ron Paul and the Cato crowd should remember that we already have an income tax, social security tax, medicare tax, and employer contributions to unemployment “insurance”–all driven by government mandate.

    I am sure Paul submits an income tax return every year. My relatively simple form contains all sorts of information about me that I must submit.

    Employers are already required to verify that one is a citizen or legal resident (in addition to other onerous reporting requirements–see above). E-verify, if established correctly, would simply be a way to minimize fraud.

    I wish Paul had been an enthusiast for the rule of law while he was in Congress. Maybe then he would have demanded that the executive enforce our immigration laws and we wouldn’t be thinking about how to deal with E-verify.

  20. Byron Horatio

    This will only drive more employers to simply go off the radar and hire ALL their employees illegally. My last boss certainly did that. Moved to this country and got tired of the hassle so he switched to a cash system. Was fine by anyone who worked for him. The economy will simply favor a black market in goods and labor more and more.

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