Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged E-Verify

“If E-Verify becomes mandatory, the result will be that you will essentially have to get cleared with a government right-to-work list before you can start a job. And that’s a huge change,” argues Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for privacy issues at the American Civil Liberties Union.

E-Verify, a government-operated database of everyone legally permitted to work in the United States, is currently used by hundreds of thousands of employers to check the status of their workers. Yet a national identification system has no precedent in the United States. Can E-Verify certify work status for immigrants and native-born workers alike without trampling on our civil liberties?

Chris Calabrese sat down with Todd Krainin of ReasonTV to discuss the problems with national identification cards, new proposals for immigration reform, and how social networking has changed our expectations of personal privacy.

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Earlier this week, Presidental hopeful, Mitt Romney, spoke at a town hall meeting in Iowa that he supports an expansion of the controversial E-Verify program for employment. Currently, the program checks the legal status of new employees, but Romney would push it further.

Mitt Romney backed a national ID system and government pre-approval of all new hires in the country. It’s a stunning amount of power he wants the federal government to have.

You’ve got to crack down on employers that hire people that are illegal, and that means you have to have a system that identifies who’s here legally, with a biometric card that has: this is the person, they’re allowed to work here. You say to an employer, you look at that card, you swipe it in your computer, you type in the number, it instantly tells you whether they’re legal or not.

The E-Verify system is a biometric identification system that is a direct response from Congress as a part of immigration reform. Despite the fact that the government continually tells us that an E-Verify or national ID system would solve our illegal immigration problem, it will never work.

A mandatory national EEV system would have substantial costs yet still fail to prevent illegal immigration. It would deny a sizable percentage of law-abiding American citizens the ability to work legally. Deemed ineligible by a database, millions each year would go pleading to the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration for the right to work. By increasing the value of committing identity fraud, EEV would cause that crime’s rates to rise.

Creating an accurate EEV system would require a national identification (ID) system, costing about $20 billion to create and hundreds of millions more per year to operate. Even if it were free, the country should reject a national ID system. It would cause law-abiding American citizens to lose more of their privacy as government records about them grew and were converted to untold new purposes. “Mission creep” all but guarantees that the federal government would use an EEV system to extend federal regulatory control over Americans’ lives even further.

The E-Verify system is inaccurate fifty-percent [pdf] of the time costing employees thousands of dollars in rectifying the situation. If implemented nationwide, it would cost small business owners billions in additional taxes.

Our immigration system is broken, but this is not the way to fix it. Immigrants, illegal or legal, play an extremely important part in American society. Removing them with a system that only works half the time not only hurts the immigrants and citizens caught up in the system, but every American who relies on the goods and services that they provide.

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When E-Verify was first introduced, I said that it would not help in discovering illegal immigrants. Turns out I’m right again and the government didn’t think their plan through. The government is now thinking of using the credit agency Equifax to help shore up the E-Verify program in an attempt to salvage what’s left of the program.

The plan by the Department of Homeland Security, which is still preliminary and would probably require congressional approval, could have far-reaching consequences. The government already allows employers to check the legal status of employees using a system known as E-Verify, but hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants beat the system by using stolen Social Security numbers.

Well, who would have thought of that? Oh right. That was me.

If workers had to use the verification systems in place to apply for a mortgage or a bank account, they would not only have to present a Social Security number to an employer, but also answer questions about their personal history and financial background to establish their identity.

You can’t ask about personal history or financial backgrounds during the job application and interviewing process. It violates federal law.

On Monday, the government announced that it would begin allowing individuals in the District, Virginia and four other states to voluntarily use a system provided by Equifax to verify their identity. Once they did that, they could access a federal database to verify their authorization to work. The move will help the small number of legally authorized immigrants and U.S. citizens who encounter problems each year when an employer runs their Social Security numbers through the E-Verify system.

The voluntary program will be piloted in the District, Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Mississippi. It will be expanded nationwide in the coming months.

These problems, according to the government are minor issues such as spelling mistakes.

Since House republicans want the E-Verify system to be mandatory instead of voluntary, it’s probably a good idea for the government to fix the problems of a nearly useless system before instituting it as a mandate. By using Equifax, the government is hoping to circumvent the privacy protections upon employment, mainly those that use financial figures, credit scores, and personal details, that are otherwise illegal to ask when applying for a job.

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E-Verify is the government’s program that is meant to catch illegal immigrants in the workforce. The problem is that it only detects 54% of illegals. The program is not working as designed or planned as it lets half the immigrants screened pass as legal workers. Tens of thousands of US companies use the ineffective E-Verify in the United States as a means of complying with US law.

The Internet-based program checks information provided by new hires against Social Security Administration and Homeland Security databases to confirm they are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the country.

An evaluation of E-Verify carried out for DHS by research group Westat found the program couldn’t confirm whether information workers were presenting was their own, and, as a result, “many unauthorized workers obtain employment by committing identity fraud that cannot be detected by E-Verify,” Westat told the department. Westat put the “inaccuracy rate for unauthorized workers” at about 54%.

All federal contractors are required to enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of being awarded a government contract. At least 10 states use the system to check the work-eligibility of state workers. Some states, like Arizona and Mississippi, require all employers to use E-Verify, regardless of whether they are state contractors.

While catching 54% of illegals is a huge improvement over the old system, it’s still a dismal result. If you have a 54% graduation rate in high school, it may be an improvement over your 27% graduation rate, but it’s still not good enough. If you lose in a baseball game 2-1 as opposed to losing 2-0, you’ve still lost the game.

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