Legislation introduced in January by California’s U.S. Rep. David Dreier adds more muscle to the existing E-Verify program. Dreier’s legislation, the Illegal Immigration Enforcement and Social Security Protection Act, would require Social Security cards to include a digitized photo and electronic signature strip that employers could use to immediately confirm a prospective employee's work eligibility. HR 98 would also increase employer penalties to those who knowingly hire illegal aliens or fail to verify their employment eligibility. Read CAPS’ action alert here.
Under the legislation’s terms, fines for failure to comply would be increased to a maximum of $50,000 with jail sentences of up to 5 years per offense and would also require the employer to pay for deportation costs.
In 2005, Dreier introduced similar legislation that required job applicants to physically present their digitized social security cards as part of the employment process. At the time, the bill had the support of Republican majority whip Roy Blount (R-MO) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) [Social Security ID May Go Plastic, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 29, 2005]
The debate about the bill’s viability will likely center around whether or not the new social security cards will increase or decrease identity theft, one of the biggest problems in illegal alien employment. Those who favor Dreier’s approach say the card will be tamperproof. The card would be swiped through a reader by an employer and its information compared to an employment eligibility database to be maintained by the Homeland Security Department.
Those opposed claim that Dreier’s bill would create a de facto national identity card even though its language specifically prohibits its use for that purpose.
Mark Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based advocacy group, said about the original legislation that the new card could potentially expand the already widespread use of Social Security numbers as personal identification. Said Rotenberg: "Our concern with the proposal is that this card … is the type of card that people might begin to carry in their wallets". Rotenberg concludes that would give identity thieves more opportunities to steal cards or acquire stolen ones.
With the national unemployment rate at 9.2 percent but higher in many localities, American workers don’t have the luxury of being caught up in an extended debate about whether digitized Social Security cards violate civil rights or are politically incorrect. Dreier’s important legislation should have Congress’ full support.
HR 98, written with input from the National Border Patrol Council president T.J. Bonner, currently has 13 cosponsors.