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?