E-Verify and Privacy
- Senate Adopts Immigration Bill with E-Verify Requirement: The Senate has passed an expansive immigration bill that includes employment verification by the federal government for all U.S. employees -- "E-Verify" -- within five years. In testimony before Congress, EPIC warned of inaccurate employment determinations in the E-Verify system and said that Privacy Act safeguards must be strengthened to ensure fairness and accountability. In June 2011, EPIC filed comments with the Department of Homeland Security in opposition to the expansion of E-Verify. For more information, see EPIC: E-Verify and Privacy and EPIC: Spotlight on Surveillance - E-verify System. (Jul. 5, 2013)
- Coalition of Organizations Call for Greater Accountability for E-Verify: Numerous organizations across the political spectrum have urged Congress to reduce the error rate for the employment verification system "E-Verify". A bill now pending in Congress will mandate employer verification of an all employees’ eligibility to work in the United States. In testimony before Congress in 2007, EPIC warned of inaccurate employment determinations in the E-Verify system. EPIC also cautioned against straining the resources of the Social Security Administration and the aggregation of employment data into a central location. In June 2011, EPIC filed comments with the Department of Homeland Security in opposition of the proposed expansion of E-Verify. For more information, see EPIC: E-Verify and Privacy and EPIC: Spotlight on Surveillance - E-verify System. (May. 9, 2013)
- Department of Homeland Security Limits E-Verify Data and Disclosures: The Department of Homeland Security has issued a Privacy Act system of records notice for the E-Verify Program. E-Verify is a government records system that informs employers about the citizenship status of current and prospective employees. The database contains detailed personal information including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and citizenship status for all individuals subject to review. This Privacy Act notice minimizes the information that the agency will collect, and also limits the agency's ability to disclose personal information to outside entities. Last year EPIC, along with a coalition of privacy, consumer rights, and civil rights organizations, encouraged DHS to strengthen privacy and security safeguards for E-Verify. For more information, see EPIC: E-Verify and Privacy. (Aug. 9, 2012)
- 2013 Federal Budget Limits Body Scanners, But Expands Domestic Surveillance: According to White House budget documents and the Congressional Testimony of Secretary Napolitano, DHS will not purchase any new airport body scanners in 2013. However, the agency will expand a wide range of programs for monitoring and tracking individuals within the United States. This includes the development of biometric identification techniques for programs such as Secure Communities. DHS will also seek funding for "Einstein 3," a network intrusion detection program that enables surveillance of private networks. EPIC has urged the DHS to comply with the requirements of the federal Privacy Act, and is currently pursuing several Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the agency. For more information see, EPIC - Body Scanners and Radiation Risks, EPIC - E-Verify, EPIC - Secure Communities, EPIC - Fusion Centers, EPIC - Drones, EPIC - Cybersecurity, EPIC - Secure Flight. (Feb. 20, 2012)
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 ("IRCA") made it illegal for employers to "knowingly" hire non-citizens who were not authorized to work in the United States. Most employers began to require all new hires to complete the I-9 Form initial provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), established identity and work eligibility. Employers are required to maintain each employees I-9 Form and copies of identity documents among business records should they be required by the Immigration and Naturalization Service officials. The law also created a voluntary "Basic Pilot" program, which provide pre-employment eligibility screening to employers who wished to participated in the federal program. Basic Pilot, was a joint project of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services and the Social Security Administration. In 1997, the pilot worker screening program began to use an electronic employment eligibility verification system.
On November 22, 2002, the Homeland Security Act of 2002, became Public law 107-296. The law abolished the Immigration and Naturalization Service and moved all of its functions including the I-9 Form dissemination and the Basic Pilot project to the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security transitioned the Basic Pilot Project into the E-Verify Program.
E-Verify is a national internet-based computer records system that effectively requires employers to verify the citizenship status of their current and prospective employees. The Department uses the system to retain names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers ("SSNs"), and citizenship status for all individuals subject to review. The Department retains all of this information for ten years. Employers who use the system require their employees to provide Social Security numbers, which employees are otherwise not required to provide. In fact, despite the Social Security Administration's ("SSA") participation in the E-Verify system, the SSA has previously stated that "[r]epetitive use and disclosure of SSNs in organizational record keeping systems . . . multiplies the susceptibility of persons to potential identity theft." Employers submit their employees' SSNs to the Department of Homeland Security, as well as other personal information the employee provides through a "Form I-9" questionnaire.
The Department matches the information it receives against E-Verify's databases, populated with records from the SSA's "Numident" System. The Numident master file is a record of personally identifying information (“PII”) including name, date of birth, and SSN. The information is provided to the government by SSN applicants on Form SS-5 "Application for a Social Security Number." The Department also uses the E-Verify system to match employee information against any number of the twenty-one databases maintained by DHS and other federal agencies. These additional databases contain signatures, fingerprints, photo images, immigration statuses, addresses, changes of address, prior visa issuances or refusals, and government benefit eligibility data. In its System of Records Notice, the Department provides an example of database verification. An employee who provides an "Alien Number" would trigger an agency search into the USCIS Central Index System (“CIS”) and a photo match with an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) image. If DHS concludes that its search through these databases "verif[ies] the employee's employment eligibility," the agency sends the employer an "Employment Authorized" notification. If not, the employer receives a "Verification in Process" response, and the Department undertakes further review.
The Department of Homeland Security has introduced several changes and proposed additional changes in a May 9, 2011 Federal Register System of Records Notice for E-verify. In the notice DHS proposes to add a new E-Verify database of employee information. The new database would merge federal background check records with state driver license data sets. The agency proposes to use AAMVAnet, described in the SORN as a "secure framework." In 2006, the Department of Transportation stated that AAMVAnet is "based on outdated, 1980’s-vintage technology." If employees present their employers with state drivers' licenses or permits, or state identification cards for those who do not drive, the Department proposes to check the identification document against the new database of state motor vehicle records, which the agency proposes to aggregate through "voluntary" state participation.
Only one state, Mississippi in 2009, has voluntarily granted E-Verify access to its residents' information with forty nine states having refused the agency access to records on their citizens. Although DHS describes state participation as voluntary there are questions regarding the agency's definition of voluntary. The Department's previous conduct in securing "voluntary" state participation raises serious questions. For example, after stating that the REAL ID Act is not a mandate, former DHS Secretary Chertoff elaborated that if a state did not comply “then the state cannot expect that those licenses will be accepted for federal purposes.” Non-complying states were warned that individuals would not be able to use the state-issued identification to board a commercial aircraft, for example. Utah State Legislature’s resolution opposing the Real ID Act recognized the mandatory nature in criticizing that the law “coerces states into doing the federal government's bidding by threatening to refuse noncomplying states' citizens the privileges and immunities enjoyed by other states' citizens.”
E-Verify Risks to Privacy
The Department of Homeland Security in its request for comments on its proposed rule to government the collection of data, retention and use regarding E-Verify made it clear that it would not limit the use of the data to employment verification purposes. The first rule for privacy protection is that the purpose of the data collection would dictate how the data can be used. This principle of privacy protection is called use limitation. The agency's position regarding how it will use E-Verify data is contrary to Congress' tailored design of the original Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) pilot program, which E-Verify is based upon.IIRIRA Pilot program.
EPIC Policy Pages
EPIC on E-Verify
- Marc Rotenberg, EPIC Executive Director, Testimony before Congress on an E-Verify Proposal Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS)
- Spotlight on Surveillance: E-Verify System: DHS Changes Name, But Problems Remain for U.S. Workers
- E-Verify Comments by EPIC, ACLU, EFF and Others
- EPIC Comments to the General Services Administration
- EPIC, Media, Civil Liberties and Immigration Groups Urge NPR to Drop Promotion for E-Verify
Legal and Legislation
- Federal Court Temporarily Blocks New Government Rule on Employment Eligibility Verification
- Illinois Law Exempts State from E-Verify Rule
- Illinois Lawsuit Against New E-Verify No Match Rule
- U.S. Sues Illinois for Passing Law Demanding Accuracy in Employment Eligibility System
- Presidential Debate: ABC Political Team Checks the Facts, Topic of E-verify, ABC Political Team, abcnews.go.com, October 17, 2012
- On the Arizona immigration law: Was Romney calling it a “model” or was he referring to “e-verify?”
- Arizona-Style Immigration Laws Hurt the Economy, Alex Nowrasteh, Contributor, Forbes.com, October 12, 2012
- Mi Pueblo markets lead to E-verify audit, possible boycott, By Matt O'Brien / MediaNews Group, Times-Herald, October 6, 2012
- Springfield Council unanimously killed E-Verify; charging Minutemen fees discussed, Jonathan Shorman, News Leader, September 21, 2012
- Congress extends E-Verify program through 2015 (E-Verify program for three years, through September 30, 2015), September 20, 2012
- Springfield voters to decide whether or not businesses must use E-Verify, Station KY3, January 31, 2012
- E-Verify in effect for local governments, no enforcement in place, David Horn, NCNN Radio News, January 30, 2012
- E-Verify brings few early hassles, but concerns remain, The Tennessean, January 29, 2012
- Farmers, immigrants unite against E-Verify, Manuel Valdes, The Seattle Times, January 28, 2012
- Alabama businesses soon to use E-Verify system for employees, Christine Pae, 48 News, January 26, 2012
- Springfield Chapter of NAACP Opposes E-Verify Ordinance, Brad Haller, OzarksFirst.com, December 30, 2011
- Feds: 'Sheriff Joe' Arpaio Violated Civil Rights, Dan Watson, USC University of California (Neon Tommy Anneberg Digital News), December 15, 2011
- Analysis: What's the Next Step for E-Verify?, Stuart Anderson, Contributor, Forbes, October 2, 2011
- House will vote on mandatory E-Verify, Marcos Restrepo, The Iowa Independent, September 22, 2011
- E-Verify: De Facto National ID and the End of Privacy , John W. Whitehead, Opinion, New Jersey Today, September 16, 2011
- E-Verify OK with business, except agriculture, Kent Hoover-Washington Bureau Chief, Phoenix Business Journal, June 24, 2011
- U.S. House Republicans push E-Verify as immigration tool, GARY MARTIN, Houston Chronicle, June 14, 2011
- Trust but E-Verify ROSS DOUTHAT, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times, May 29, 2011
- Florida Senate votes down e-Verify bill, Matt Coleman, Jacksonville Business Journal, May 4, 2011
- Georgia passes immigration bill similar to Arizona's, Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2011
- E-Verify Extended for Three Years, Greenvilleonline.com, October 21, 2009
- E-Verify Legal-Worker System Extended for 3 Years, AZCentral.com, October 21, 2009
- EPIC Comments on E-Verify
- IIRIRA Pilot program.
- Open Government Documents DHS Spends Millions on E-Verify
- Department of Homeland Security Limits E-Verify Data and Disclosures 2013
- Napolitano Testimony on DHS Programs
- Administration Will Require E-Verify for All Federal Contractors
- Homeland Security Secretary Proposes Increase in Spending for Domestic Surveillance Programs
- Administration Will Require E-Verify for All Federal Contractors
- DHS Final Rule on
- E-Verify No Match Policy for Employers
- President Bush Extends DHS Control Over Workers, Travelers
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