About that scary new database in the immigration bill…

The left often falsely portrays conservatives as anarchists that do not believe in any government, but in reality conservatives believe that government does have a role, it just tends to go way beyond that. Specifically, some of the roles that conservatives do believe are the proper functions of government include enforcing laws, protecting our sovereignty and keep Americans safe. Stopping and punishing illegal immigration clearly fits into those roles. However, after someone successfully enters the country illegally, the opportunity to perform those functions is limited. Most deportations are the result of an illegal immigrant being detained for a separate infraction.  If an illegal immigrant otherwise obeys the law, our government realistically has a very difficult time catching them. 


E-verify is one of a very small number of realistic proposals that has been successful and popular at removing the incentives for illegal immigrants to remain in America. This program asks employers to check the legal status of prospective employees against a government database by entering identifying factors from their I-9 form. More than 353,000 employers currently use E-Verify according to the DHS and it has widely been regarded as successful everywhere it has been tried. Furthermore, 82% of voters, including 91% of Republicans, favor requiring employers to use e-verify. There have also been several bills proposed individually by conservatives attempting to make it a national requirement. Most recently, Republican Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) proposed a national e-verify system and a new verification database to go with it. Lastly, to state the obvious, this system is not possible unless there is a database for employers to check the information.


So why am I pointing all of this out now? Last week, Wired.com, published an article highlighting that the Senate’s proposed immigration reform bill has a “hidden” provision (by “hidden” I assume they mean it’s not in all caps or in bold) that creates a biometric database of all adult Americans.  Besides the countless factual errors in the article, Wired purposefully dances around the fact that this database is actually part of an e-verify type program.  Many conservative sites picked news of the new database up as a concerning intrusion on liberty, but this ignores some key facts:


1) While the database is new and specifically intended this purpose, DHS, the agency that is responsible for administrating the database, already has access to almost all of the information contained within said database. In other words, if someone from DHS wanted to leak this information about you, they don’t need this database to do it. There are often concerns about government abuse and overreach of private information, but that is usually new information they do not have access to, not simply re-organized into one database.


2) Fingerprints would only be required and kept for illegal immigrants seeking to become legalized.


3) The main concern seems to be over the new portion of the e-verify program, the “photo tool”.  This tool is meant to add another layer of security so that illegal immigrants cannot simply fool the employer with a stolen social security number. It is true that a photograph is technically also considered Biometric data, but this database will not necessarily have a photo of everyone either. These photos will be based on those individuals with a driver’s license (or passport), but it is completely up to the individual state whether to send them to DHS.  If the state opts out, an individual will instead be asked to provide biographical data to further confirm their identity.  (h/t Justin Green)


I have noticed that many of the people complaining about this provision are also against the legalization provisions in the bill, which doesn’t make sense to me. If you believe these laws need to be enforced, then how can you oppose one of the best/only tools available for enforcing them? Opposing e-verify is essentially a pro-amnesty position for illegal immigrants that are already here and not committing other crimes. Part of this seems to stem simply from some people looking to oppose the bill and trying to latch on to every argument they can to do so, but let’s not denounce good ideas because they happen to be in the same bill as some bad ones. There are plenty of legitimate concerns conservatives should have about the immigration reform bill in the Senate, but the various parts of e-verify shouldn’t be one of them.


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