June 29, 2011
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Re: Oppose E-Verify and any Mandatory Provision Expanding the System
We write today to express in the strongest possible terms our opposition to H.R. 2164, the “Legal Workforce Act”. H.R. 2164 would mandate the use of the bureaucratic E-Verify system and for the first time in history require every American to be checked against an error prone government database. If a worker’s information is incorrect in E-Verify, he or she can’t work until the problem is resolved. In addition to the harmful effects this process would have on workers and the economy, we believe the risks to individual privacy are too great and the likely benefits are too small to justify inserting the federal government into every hiring decision made by every employer across the country.
A nationwide mandatory E-Verify system would be one of the largest and most widely accessible databases of private information ever created in the U.S. Its size and openness would present an irresistible target for identity thieves. Additionally, because the system would cover everyone eligible to work in the United States, it could quickly expand to a host of other uses for the intelligence community, law enforcement, and corporate America.
The current E-Verify system, implemented in a small fraction of the country’s
workplaces, contains an enormous amount of personal information including names, photos (in some cases), social security numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, workers’ employer and industry, and immigration information like country of birth. It links to a variety of other databases such as the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) TECS database (a vast repository of Americans’ travel history) and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) BSS database (all immigration fingerprint information from US VISIT and other sources).1 CIS has recently announced the inclusion of drivers’ license information from at least one state.2
Because E-Verify contains photos and will very soon contain drivers’ license information
it could quickly evolve into a national identity system. E-Verify is internet-based and hence available almost anywhere. If the system is expanded, it could easily be used to verify drivers’ licenses at airports or federal facilities and combined with travel, financial, or watch list information. The errors and problems with E-Verify would then transform from employment issues to problems with travel and other fundamental freedoms.
Additionally, the system must guard against data breaches and attacks by identity thieves.
Since the first data breach notification law went into effect in California at the beginning of 2004, more than 510 million records have been hacked, lost or improperly disclosed including Everify databases.3 In October 2009, and again in December 2009, Minnesota state officials learned that the company hired to process their E-verify forms had accidentally allowed unauthorized individuals to gain access to the personal information of over 37,000 individuals due to poor authentication practices and web application vulnerabilities in their system.4 If the Department of Homeland Security and states are unable to provide proper data security, we cannot possibly expect small business across America to do so.
H.R. 2164 also contains a pilot biometric ID card program. This program would allow
any employer to fingerprint all employees and would create private sector “enrollment providers”. These providers would combine biometrics, information from employers, commercial databases, and information from DHS and Social Security Administration – all for the purpose of identity verification. Such a card would exacerbate the existing problems with EVerify by adding additional sensitive information and allowing it to be kept in private hands.
For all of these reasons, we oppose H.R. 2164 and any expansion of the E-Verify system and we urge you not to move the bill from committee.
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
American Policy Center
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for Digital Democracy
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Cyber Privacy Project
Defending Dissent Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Gaurdian I-9 And E-Verify Blog, May 4, 2011.
The 5-11 Campaign
The Multiracial Activist
The National Center for Transgender Equality
National Workrights Institute
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
The Rutherford Institute
Former Congressman Bob Barr
Law Professor Chip Pitts, Stanford Law School & Oxford University
1 73 Fed. Reg. 75449.
2 Notice of Privacy Act System of Records, 76 Fed. Reg. 26738 (May 9, 2011), available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-05-09/html/2011-11291.htm
3 Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Chronology of Data Breaches, http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/ChronDataBreaches.htm .
4 John Fay, FTC Settlement Highlights the Importance of Protecting Sensitive I-9 Data in an Electronic World,