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An umbrella organization of dozens of groups that monitor legislation affecting civil liberties says a new immigration-reform measure contains a provision that could lead to de facto establishment of a national identification scheme.
Officials with Liberty Coalition say the bill, called the “Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act,” ominously “creates a dangerous new national identity database system and firmly establishes the predicate for a new national ID card system.”
In particular, said the organization, Title VII of the bill contains a requirement that employers compare current and prospective workers’ Social Security numbers with a Department of Homeland Security database to ensure they are legally able to work in the United States. If the DHS database doesn’t clear the employee, the employer can be fined.
Michael Ostrolenk, national director for the coalition, said he was not only concerned about the ID implications but also that database glitches or errors could inadvertently penalize some employees and their employers.
“Even setting aside concerns of intentional ‘blacklisting’ of innocent Americans, even a small error rate could mean millions of Americans forced out of work by computer mistakes,” he said.
“Homeland Security has a poor record of putting innocent Americans on secretive ‘no-fly’ lists, and should not be entrusted with determining who is allowed is to make a living in this country,” Ostrolenk added.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. James E. Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., was approved Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.
“This legislation will help restore the integrity of our nation’s borders and reestablish respect for our laws by holding violators accountable, including human traffickers, employers who hire illegal aliens and alien gang members who terrorize communities throughout the country,” Sensenbrenner said, in a statement.
Among other provisions, the bill “makes mandatory an employment eligibility verification system currently voluntary” by implementing a program confirming or denying “the authenticity of Social Security numbers offered by new hires.” According to the committee, the bill “requires that all employers within two years will begin checking any new hires against this database and begin checking all hires within six years.”
Terry Shawn, a spokesman for the Judiciary Committee, told WorldNetDaily Sensenbrenner had worked late on legislation and was unavailable for comment.
While a section of the bill says no provision in it “shall be construed to authorize, directly or indirectly, the issuance or use of national identification cards,” Liberty Coalition officials point out another section requires Social Security Administration, the Treasury Department and the Department of Justice to submit a report to Congress about creating a machine-readable photo ID based on social security numbers.
“This action is a clear move towards constructing a National ID program, a concept rejected by most Americans,” said the group, in a statement.
James Plummer, the coalition’s policy director, described the bill’s language about a national ID as “Orwellian doublespeak.”
“A real border security law would secure the borders, making this kind of police-state ‘Big Brother’ tracking of Americans unnecessary,” he said.
Liberty Coalition includes such politically diverse groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, Free Congress Foundation and the American Conservative Union.