At a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship, lawmakers from both parties expressed broad support Tuesday for strengthening the E-Verify online employment eligibility verification program with biometrics.
The chairman of the subcommittee, Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.), said that E-Verify only checks whether the name, date of birth, citizenship status and other details provided by a job applicant match those in official records from the Social Security Administration and the IRS. The process does little to stop identity thieves and those using identity credentials fraudulently from working illegally in the U.S.
"It is not difficult for illegal workers to scam the system," because there's no reliable way check identities, he said. What is needed is a "tough, fair and effective employment verification system" that relies on the use of a "non-forgeable" biometric identifier, such as fingerprints or palm prints and digital photos, to authenticate the identities of job seekers, he said. Only with such a system is it possible for employers to reliably check the eligibility of new hires, he said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, (D-Ill.), urged Congress to ignore "naysayers" opposed to biometric authentication. With adequate security, privacy protections and care, a biometric-based employment verification system is the "only hope" for dealing with illegal employment, he said.
Adding a biometric component to the E-Verify program will only will further "invade Americans' privacy and create a new employment blacklist," the American Civil Liberties Union warned in testimony submitted to the subcommittee. "From a practical point of view, a biometric system is the worst of both worlds," ACLU counsel Chris Calabrese wrote. Under the biometric ID system, individuals would need to visit a government agency, provide proof of identity and then have their fingerprint or some other biometric recorded. That biometric would then either be put into a database or on an ID card. "This is a quintessential national ID system," Calabrese wrote.