Skip the navigation

Employment verification, ID rules could be a hard sell for immigration reform

Proposals for tamper-proof ID cards and electronic employment eligibility checks have been tried before

January 31, 2013 05:05 PM ET

Computerworld - Mandatory employment eligibility verification and identity vetting requirements in recent proposals for comprehensive immigration reform could prove to be a tough sell to various groups that have opposed the measures in the past as being unworkable.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama outlined a five-point proposal that would put undocumented immigrants on a path to legal immigration status in the U.S. Under his proposal, undocumented people would get a chance at 'earned citizenship' as long as they register, submit biometric data and pass criminal and national security background checks.

The proposal also calls for a strengthening of border security, better enforcement of existing immigration and hiring laws, more streamlined legal immigration processes and green cards for foreign students who graduate with science and technology degrees.

The White House proposals are nearly identical to a bipartisan immigration framework outlined on Monday by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and several others.

One proposal likely to run into rough weather calls for mandatory e-verification of all new and existing hires. It would require all companies, except some small businesses, to use U.S. government databases to electronically verify the work status of employees. The mandatory verification would be phased in over five years and provides for significant penalties for those who don't use the system or commit identity fraud.

Both sets of proposals also mandate new non-forgeable and tamper-resistant Social Security cards as proof of authorization to work in the U.S.

In comments to Politico's Playbook earlier this week, McCain and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) vigorously supported the need for tamper-poof Social Security cards that include a biometric identifier like a fingerprint. ' "I'm for this," McCain told Politico. "I would like to remind you that the 9/11 Commission made a series of recommendations. One of three that was never implemented was this kind of identification that's required."

Similar proposals have been aired in the past and have failed. One example: the controversial Real ID Act of 2005, which sought to implement a nationwide standard for driver's licenses. That measure failed after a storm of opposition from rights groups, privacy advocates, lawmakers and even the Department of Homeland Security.

Privacy advocates and rights groups were worried that the system would result in the creation of a national ID card. Others worried that a national identity system would be hard to manage and even harder to secure. Many states refused to implement the law on the grounds that it was too expensive and impractical.

Similarly, the federal E-Verify System already provides a mechanism for employers to check the employment eligibility of workers against databases at the Social Security Administration and elsewhere. While government agencies are required to use it, private companies don't have to.



Our Commenting Policies