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Not the Usual Suspects: E-Verify Worries a Motley Crew

Chris Calabrese,
Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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February 20, 2013

Today the ACLU and a wide variety of other organizations sent a short letter to the Hill describing our concerns with the E-Verify program. These types of letters aren’t unusual – in DC groups frequently try to showcase the breadth of support or opposition to particular programs. But what is surprising is how many groups that have little or nothing to do with immigration are worried about E-Verify.

Ok, take a deep breath. In addition to supporters of immigration reform, the concerns over E-Verify are shared by: libertarians and librarians; advocates for workers’ rights and small business owners; those worried about government overreaching, government overspending, and income inequality; groups dedicated to limiting money in politics; and those protecting free speech, protecting civil rights, and protecting home schooling. And let’s not forget, of course, lots and lots and lots of consumer and privacy groups. It’s quite a list!

But the simple fact is that lots of people – no matter how they feel about the specifics of immigration reform – want to do it right. That means without an E-Verify system that we describe in the letter as “irredeemably flawed.” What unites these groups?

A ton:

  • E-Verify imposes immigration enforcement costs on Americans. System errors will make hundreds of thousands of legal workers visit federal offices to exercise their right to work.
  • E-Verify errors disproportionately impact minority groups: including young workers, married women, naturalized citizens, legal immigrants, and individuals with multiple surnames, including many Hispanics.
  • E-Verify conscripts employers to act as immigration agents. According to Bloomberg Government, small businesses will spend $2.6 billion every year to implement the system.
  • E-Verify will exacerbate identity theft. E-Verify will increase demand for stolen identities and enable thieves to use its database to determine the validity of a Social Security number.
  • E-Verify creates a de facto national ID system. Since the system permits identity verification, it can be used to monitor access to any public or private service based on immigration status or any other criteria.

Longtime readers of this blog know we’ve been ringing the alarm bell on E-Verify and national ID for years. But since it’s in the news and part of every immigration proposal, we know we have our work cut out for us and we welcome it. We’re going to work arm-in-arm with our disparate group of friends and allies to see that these concerns are addressed because immigration reform shouldn’t result in injustice or privacy harms to any American or legal resident.

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