Liberty Coalition Letter re: national pre-employment screening database

March 8, 2006
Liberty Coalition Letter to United States Senate
Opposition to National Pre-employment Screening Database

 

March 8, 2006

Dear Senator:

We, the undersigned organizations urge you to oppose any Homeland Security pre-employment database program as a part of so-called "immigration reform." Let us be clear – this system is for everyone in America, not just illegal immigrants. The proposed system would bar American citizens as well as foreign residents from taking a job without first receiving the permission of the Department of Homeland Security.

Legislation under consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, drafted by the Chairman and titled the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006" includes expansion of a pilot program to include all employers in the United States. Under this program, every employer in the United States would have to run the Social Security number of every new employee through a Homeland Security database. Many current employees would be subject to this data-mining as well.

This program would essentially give the Homeland Security Department veto power over the employment of anyone in America. And this power would come without any real privacy or security protections. Even setting aside concerns of the intentional "blacklisting" of innocent Americans, even a small error rate could mean millions of Americans forced out of work by computer mistakes. With 54 million new hires in America each year, a false positive rate of only .5% would mean 270,000 innocent Americans denied employment every year. Homeland Security's "no-fly" list already keeps tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent Americans from flying commercially. Why should this same Department be trusted to create a "no-job" list? The result will be to delay or deny tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans (as well as legal immigrants and visa-holders) the right to earn a living. This "collateral damage" is unacceptable in what is likely to be a fruitless attempt to deny work to the 11 million immigrants already here without status.

The Government Accountability Office has estimated the costs of this system to run at least 11.7 billion dollars per year. The bill under consideration would pay for that by leveling a tax or "fee" on businesses. A $12 billion tax increase on American business will set back the economy, raising prices and unemployment.

Expansion of Basic Pilot Employment Verification System program lays the groundwork for a national ID system. This government database will contain extensive information about every American and work-authorized non-citizen in the country. Allowing the government to maintain these kind of files on all Americans is but a short step from implementing a national identification system, despite language in the Chairman's bill forswearing a National ID card. It should also be noted that similar legislation in the House explicitly calls for a report from the Treasury Secretary on making Social Security cards into photographic national Id cards necessary for employment. Congress has consistently renounced efforts to institute a national ID in the past because of its incompatibility with a free society and the U.S. Constitution. Do not allow this legislation to slip it in through the back door.

This employment verification system will not guarantee that illegal aliens are barred from work. Rather, it will lead to an increase in identity fraud and identity theft. Persons wanting to sidestep the system can easily purchase fraudulent documents or steal the identity of a work-authorized individual. This system will create a whole new market for stolen identities, putting Americans at an increased risk for identity fraud. Indeed, the employment verification database itself would prove an irresistible target for hackers, "one-stop shopping" for identity thieves and malactors seeking other sensitive information.

There are many serious options for increasing border security and curbing illegal immigration. Congress can and should conduct serious oversight of how the laws already on the books are enforced and how to keep those who would do the country harm from entering in the first place. But subjecting innocent Americans to increased surveillance and moving something as basic as employment from the free market to a command-and-control centralized system is not the answer. For these reasons, we urge you to oppose Title II of the Chairman's legislation.

Sincerely,

Liberty Coalition

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances

Americans for Tax Reform

Electronic Privacy Information Center

National Security Whistleblower Coalition

Cyber Privacy Project

Give Me Back My Rights Coalition

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Consumer Action

Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

Rutherford Institute

Privacy Activism

American Policy Center

Fairfax County Privacy Council

American Library Association

Privacy Times

J.D. Abolins, Meyda Online Information Security, Privacy, and Liberties Studies

Velvet Revolution

National Lawyers Guild–National Office

The Multiracial Activist

U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation

Gun Owners of America

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