Our new euphemism for a national identification system is “identity authentication mechanism.” The Gang of 8, the leaders of which are proponents of biometric national ID cards, included a provision in the electronic employment verification portion of the immigration bill that calls for such a “mechanism” to identify every American at the click of a mouse.
E-Verify, the verification system used voluntarily by about 7.5 percent of employers, is currently national ID-lite. Right now, E-Verify only compares identifiers, such as your name and Social Security number, to the Department of Homeland Security database. This means the system cannot know whether the person submitting the identifiers (SSN, name, etc.) is the individual those identifiers refer to, which would be true identification.
True identification, as the Cato Institute’s Jim Harper explains in his book, “Identity Crisis,” must compare biometric identifying information — pictures, fingerprints, retina scans, DNA, etc. — to the actual individual. The Gang of 8 bill does this. It allocates $250 million to DHS to include all passport, DMV and state ID photos and ID numbers into the system. Employers would then compare the database picture to the new hire.
This is a true national identification system — the exact thing Americans have resisted for the past 80 years, ever since the Social Security card was first proposed. Nonetheless, the Gang of 8 bill contains the obligatory “Nothing in this section may be construed to directly or indirectly authorize the issuance, use, or establishment of a national identification card.” Of course it creates “tamper-proof, fraud resistant” Social Security cards required for work, but presumably those don’t count. In any case, it creates something far more odious to privacy — a national ID system accessible anywhere at any time to identify anyone, or at least any U.S. citizen.
But it gets worse. Some peoples’ pictures may not be accessible at the time of the new hire, so the bill authorizes the Homeland Security Secretary to create an “identity authentication mechanism” that
shall provide a means of identity authentication in a manner that provides a high level of certainty as to the identity of such individual, using immigration and identifying information that may include review of identity documents or background screening verification techniques using publicly available information.
I’ve said previously E-Verify is becoming a sinkhole for all public information about an individual, a centralized file on everyone and a major threat to privacy. This bill opens up a black hole, a no-limits background check on every person in this country. Although it says it will be used only in those cases when a photo is unavailable for whatever reason, the files, procedures or whatever the Secretary comes up with will need to cover everyone. As I have said previously:
The Constitution hints at a right to remain anonymous in the Fourth Amendment, which protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” And the Supreme Court affirmed this right in 1995, saying that “anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority… It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights.” Regardless of whether this right can or should be limited in certain circumstances, it is nonetheless true that laws that require identification do, in fact, restrict the rights of Americans — in particular, their right to move or work anonymously, which many Americans might otherwise do for various reasons.
Finally, to think E-Verify will not become Americans’ “internal passport” is thoroughly naïve. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., already has stated his desire for such identification to “be used in the same cases when you use a Social Card” — that is, almost always, a constant Internet-surveillance for financial transactions, credit cards, bank accounts, health insurance claims, apartment rentals and much else besides. This fear is not simply plausible — it is virtually inevitable.
The ACLU’s Chris Calabrese lists possibilities that fall closer to the plausible long-run aims for biometric national ID, such as an E-Verify mobile app for all police, E-Verify checks by all gun dealers and TSA mandatory E-Verify screening at airports — including the unconstitutional “No Fly List.” One can only wonder how long before the words “No” and “list” have other words between them, such as “rent,” “work,” etc.