ACLU Urges Congress to Fix - Or Scrap - Flawed Immigration Bill

June 19, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS) provisions that were included in the immigration reform legislation being considered by Congress. A final agreement, or conference report, on that legislation is still pending, as neither chamber has appointed conferees to reconcile the House and Senate bills.

“Our lawmakers must fix this flawed ‘permission to work’ system,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The Employment Eligibility Verification System puts the privacy of all workers at risk and creates a real possibility that qualified Americans will be denied a job. Congress must fix this provision, or better yet, scrap the broken immigration bill in its entirety.”

The ACLU, while opposing the requirement in the Senate bill that all employers check all new hires against a government database, recognizes the improvements made by the Senate to the bill and current law in the areas of worker protection, due process and privacy.

However, under the Senate bill as amended, workers would have a real administrative and judicial process for challenging erroneous government data that results in denial of work, and if denied a job, they could recover back pay. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Barack Obama (D-IL), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) spearheaded these changes. The Senate bill also rejected attempts to create a new Social Security Card or Employment Authorization Document Card.

Such a card, which the president is championing, would be both unnecessary and expensive, the ACLU said. According to the administrator of the Social Security Administration, a new, “hardened” Social Security card would cost $9 billion to implement. The new card would quickly be compromised or counterfeited, the ACLU said, and, therefore, would add only expense and no value

The EEVS system itself, according to the Government Accountability Office, is estimated to cost $11.7 billion annually, a large share of which would be paid for by businesses. In addition to the ACLU and the AFL-CIO, the conservative Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations have expressed strong objections to the employment verification provisions of the Senate bill.

The ACLU has urged both the House and Senate to fix the shortcomings in the immigration bill.

“Congress still has a chance to fix the immigration bills in conference, a chance it should not pass up,” said Timothy Sparapani, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “American workers should not have their privacy or right to work compromised by this faulty legislation. And, the government should automatically compensate workers for lost wages caused by government errors, not fight them tooth and nail in court for every nickel and dime.”

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