Senate Subcommittee Today to Examine Electronic Employment Verification

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Linda Paris, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org  

Senate Subcommittee Today to Examine Electronic Employment Verification

Committee Likely To Consider Biometric National Identification System

WASHINGTON - In written testimony submitted to a Senate subcommittee considering a national employment verification system, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Christopher Calabrese urged lawmakers to reject a mandatory employment eligibility system and biometric national ID system because such systems will invade Americans' privacy and create a new employment blacklist. The hearing to be held at 2 pm by the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security is entitled, "Ensuring a Legal Workforce: What Changes Should be Made to Our Current Employment Verification System?"

"From a practical point of view, a biometric system is the worst of both worlds," said Chris Calabrese, Counsel to the ACLU Technology and Liberty Project. "It puts enormous burdens on those already obeying the law while leaving enough loopholes so that lawbreakers will slip through."

Under the biometric identification system being considered, an individual would have to visit a government agency and present documents such as a birth certificate or other photo ID that proves his or her identity. The person would then be fingerprinted (or linked to some other biometric) at which point the fingerprint would be placed in a database and possibly on an identification card; this is a quintessential national ID system. Employees would then be required to present their national ID card to their employers for verification of their employment eligibility using government databases.

In testimony submitted to the subcommittee, Calabrese states that a biometric national ID system would not only create a "No-Work List" ensnaring lawful workers due to the high error rate in federal databases, but it would also establish a hugely expensive new federal bureaucracy. It was estimated that federalizing state drivers' licenses under the Real ID Act of 2005 would cost more than $23 billion; with the addition of a biometric, the cost of the system being proposed today would be considerable.

"The cost to build such a system from scratch is staggering," said Calabrese. "It would involve new government offices across the country, tens of thousands of new federal employees and the construction of huge new information technology system. It is far beyond the capacity of any existing federal agency."

For ACLU testimony on a national ID system and mandatory employment verification system, go to
http://www.aclu.org/privacy/workplace/40382leg20090721.html

For ACLU letter to Senate opposing a national ID system and mandatory employment verification, go to
http://www.aclu.org/privacy/workplace/40383leg20090721.html

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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