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Immigration

E-Verify: Could It Be Used to Track All Citizens

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by Amanda Huber, MSW

In the recently drafted immigration reform bill, it is 800 pages in length which incorporates several amendments, and it its still in the early stages of debate and drafting. However, one of the most interesting component of this bill is the proposal of a “photo tool” to assist with e-verify. It may sound reasonable on the surface, but shouldn’t we also be looking past the immediate reason for the photo tool in the e-verify program in order to consider long term implications and threats to our freedom?

The gang of eight, the immigration reform coalition, has added a plan that will create a national photo database, what is this and how does this play into the language of discrimination? Well, think of e-verify, but this could prove to be more intrusive. E-Verify of course is the system in which social security numbers are verified to determine citizenship status, and the new system of this “photo tool” will use individual photo identification to determine residency status for work purposes.

Rand Paul was quoted by Global Dispatch,

“Error rates reported by government and private audits of E-Verify are extraordinarily high. E-Verify mistakenly approves a majority of unlawful immigrant job applicants and, worse, misidentifies about one percent of American applicants as unlawful. That opens up another legal odyssey for many Americans who should not have to ask permission from the federal government to work.”

Being that e-verify is an electronic program that is a partnership between the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, the original program was created to verify legal status. However, there is a growing fear that the amount of information collected in this database will be used for other purposes.

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

When social security numbers were created and passed as legislation, they were not used to verify “legal” status. Social security numbers were set up to track earnings and were later used as an identification number as it is unique to each person. The use of a Social Security number as an identification tool has been problematic as it only assigns a number to the person, or so it was thought. Since the adoption of the social security number, large government systems have tied the number to our taxes, loans, federal benefit programs, human service assistance programs, driver’s licenses, military and veteran services among others. In the age we live in, technology advances has made the unique identification number even more easily tracked using electronic measures. Living in this technologically rich world, adding a photo to the e-verify program would allow the government an unparalleled opportunity to track, or have a history on every American. Social security numbers hold the history of employment, educational systems, drivers licensing, IRS claims/ Taxes, and other social service involvement. Other concerns with this bill have been regarding the cost of the E-Verify program, The Society for Human Resource Management writes:

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a national E-Verify mandate would cost, on average, $1.2 billion annually, not including DHS personnel costs (the hiring of thousands of new enforcement agents would bump the price tag higher). A national E-Verify system would be costly for employers, too. Based on the estimates in the DHS’ Regulatory Impact Analysis for its 2008 E-Verify mandate for federal contractors, employers nationwide would spend”

In adding a photo to make sure “Carl” is not really “Carlos” is this now unconstitutional? Adding this photo and creating an expensive database full of information regarding every American citizen is concerning. In short, the argument remains, are we a nation “securing our borders” or are we putting the average citizen at risk of exploitation due to internet hacking and/or misuse of information?

Amanda Huber is the Immigration and Social Policy Staff Writer for Social Work Helper. She is a bilingual social worker in clinical practice and a community organizer for Latino rights which includes issues of migratory status, institutional racism, racial profiling, and the ways these issues affect the people.

          
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