What Are the National ID Implications of the Senate Immigration Bill?

1. ID standards: The bill requires all employers to check photo IDs of all employees they hire—any employee who fails to present a photo ID must be fired. Employees who attempt to use ID from states that have not implemented the Real ID Act would need a second form of identification to be hired. The Real ID Act was an unfunded mandate on states to remake their state IDs to fit federal guidelines. The states rebelled and refused to do so. This law would make it more burdensome for employees in those states to get a job—thus, this stick is being used to conform states to the federal ID standards. (The bill also creates “tamper-proof Social Security cards, which all workers will need to get a job in America).

3. Mandatory E-Verify: E-Verify compares form I-9 information—names, addresses, Social Security Numbers (SSNs), document ID numbers, immigrant ID numbers, etc.—submitted by employers to a federal database on all employees, a combination of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), State Dept. and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases. E-Verify’s creation was never the subject of any specific legislation, but rather was the spawn of a verification “pilot program” that was authorized under the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. This bill would mandate the system be used by all employers within four years of implementation.

4. Biometric E-Verify: E-Verify has already expanded to include all passport photos, but this bill will essentially create a database on all citizens that includes photos on each person. It’s called the “photo tool” in the bill. It allocates $250 million to pay states to hand over their state ID photos and numbers, vastly expanding the database and making photo identification essentially mandatory.

5. Identity Authentication Mechanism: If some states that still holdout, it requires that employees from those states who do not have passport photos go through an additional round of screening known as the “identity authentication mechanism,” which is totally undefined in the bill. It simply grants the Secretary unfettered authority to create

specific and effective additional security measures to adequately verify the identity of an individual whose identity may not be verified using the photo tool… 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.

What this information will be, what it will require of citizens, how much of intrusion into their privacy it will be, how much time it will take for them or their employers, is again left up the discretion of the DHS Secretary. It also creates a stick to motivate states to hand over their state ID photos to the federal government, so their citizens don’t have to go through additional screening to get a job.

Reasons to Object

These provisions taken together create a national ID system—a mandatory, national system that can be used to identify anyone at the click of a mouse. The reason Americans have fought national ID for so long was because, at some level, most Americans enjoy their privacy. They want to be able to reveal their identity as they wish. They believe that they should have a right to live and work anonymously without being forced to identify themselves at the whim of the government.

These provisions create a universal monitoring system—as the Supreme Court said in 1995, “anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority,” but when it is possible to identify anyone, all decisions are potentially up for a vote. Thus, this system could be used to restrict or monitor access to anything for any purpose—from housing to gun sales to Internet access, E-Verify checks could control access to anything. Sen. Schumer already wants a system “used in the same cases when you use a Social Security Card”—in other words, for bank accounts, credit cards, financial transactions, health care, employment, and much else. E-Verify records the location of individuals as well, which could be used to create an electronic record of movement, particularly if it was used for other purposes down the road.

These provisions violate citizens’ privacy—a most basic “principle of privacy” is that “information gathered for one purpose ought not be used for an incompatible purpose without consent of the individual.” I’d say it’s safe to say that no one who got a State ID realized their photos would be handed over the federal government to restrict employment. Moreover, the idea of central file on all individuals should frighten anyone who has followed the actions of Anonymous, the infamous group of “hackivists,” or has followed the government’s track record on protecting privacy information.

These provisions begin the age of remote federal regulation—where federal agencies monitor regulatory compliance remotely and check business decisions electronically. This is not a road businesses or free market conservatives should want to go down (more here).

These provisions pose major practical difficulties for legal residents—the added ID and security measures for citizens of states that don’t comply with DHS mandates are extremely problematic, practically creating a second-tier of citizenship, a problem which isn’t even of their own making. The error rate for E-Verify, which would currently require 150,000 Americans to fix their records at DHS or SSA offices, would greatly expand under the to-be-determined “identity authentication mechanism,” since this second round of screening would presumably entail more imperfect information in the system.

These provisions create a huge incentive for identity theft–already DHS’s independent E-Verify audit has found that 54 percent of the unauthorized immigrants beat the system using identity theft. Making this system mandatory will vastly increase the demand for fake identities.

Read my other E-Verify work here:

Study: E-Verify Mandate Is Costly for Businesses and Workers: $8.5 billion/year 

Will E-Verify Have Discriminatory Results?

Gang Of 8’s Euphemism For National ID System: “Identity Authentication Mechanism”

CEI Study: Cost Of Keeping One Unauthorized Immigrant From Getting A Job — $13,000

Americans Reject Actual E-Verify System

White House Immigration Bill Will Be A Disaster Without Accessible Work Visas

Obama’s Immigration Bill Forces Employers To Pay Illegal Immigrants

E-Verify: Opening The Door For More Regulations

National ID, By Itself, Violates Liberty

E-Verify Is A Threat To Liberty

National ID Proponents’ Bad Arguments

The New National Identification System Is Coming