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Ron Paul Testimony on The Legal Workforce Act

Please see Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul's statement before the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security of the Committee of the Judiciary. Dr. Paul specifically addresses the problems of implementing a mandatory E-Verify system.

Statement of the Honorable Ron Paul

Before the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security of the Committee of the Judiciary Hearing on

The Legal Workforce Act

February 4, 2015

Chairman Gowdy, Ranking Member Lofgren, and the rest of the members of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony.  On behalf of Campaign for Liberty’s nearly three quarters of a million members, I am pleased to explain why, by creating a mandatory E-Verify system, the “Legal Workforce Act” threatens individual liberty and limited, constitutional government.

 

The mandatory E-Verify system proposed in the bill requires almost all Americans to provide their prospective employers with their Social Security number, as well another form of identification, so the employer can verify that the applicant is a legal U.S. citizen.  The second piece of identification must contain the individual's photograph and could include biometric identification information and potentially anything else the Secretary of Homeland Security decides needs to be on it.  Americans could not legally obtain full-time work in the United States until their prospective employer received permission from the federal government to hire him or her.

 

The mandatory E-Verify system would have to require the federal government to store the collected information in a federally run database.  While language in the bill says that it does not authorize creating a “National ID card,” giving individuals a choice of identifying documents to use in complying with the E-Verify mandate does not make these systems any less threatening to liberty.  This is especially true with documents containing “biometric” information.

 

Border security is certainly a legitimate constitutional function of the federal government. However, immigration enforcement must be conducted in a manner that respects the government’s constitutional limitations and does not violate individual liberties.  Mandatory E-Verify fails on both counts.  Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government granted the authority to force Americans to seek permission from the federal government in order to obtain employment.  More importantly, as I will detail below, a mandatory E-Verify system poses a danger to individual liberty.

 

Even if the fears of civil libertarians are unfounded, mandatory E-Verify will still place burdens on Americans because of the errors that will inevitably plague the system.  Anyone who thinks the government is capable of operating a complex database system without error should recall what a wonderful job the federal government did creating and administering Healthcare.gov.

 

The inevitable mistakes in the E-Verify database will cause many Americans to be denied or lose job opportunities because the E-Verify system falsely labeled them as "ineligible" to work in America.  In the best case scenario, these Americans will eventually be able to gain employment, after spending time and money challenging government computer inaccuracies, and will receive compensation from the government.  In the worst case scenario, they will find themselves unemployable, having been labeled the equivalent of what George Orwell in 1984 called an “unperson.”  Mandatory E-Verify will also impose additional compliance costs on American businesses at a time when they are struggling with ObamaCare and other regulations.

 

The mandatory E-Verify system is also an identity thief’s dream.  Imagine being able to access the names, Social Security number, pictures, and biometric information of millions of Americans simply by hacking one government database.  In recent years, there have been several cases of government databases being hacked by identity thieves, so it seems highly unlikely that the government will be able to protect the information stored in the mandatory E-Verify database from identity thieves.

 

Supporters of E-Verify claim that mandatory E-Verify will not threaten our liberty or our privacy because the system will only be used to confirm citizenship.  However, not only does there not appear to be anything in the bill limiting the uses of the E-Verify database, but the Legal Workforce Act itself actually opens the door to use E-Verify for purposes unrelated to work verification by allowing the use of E-Verify to protect “critical infrastructure.”

 

There is no way this Congress can guarantee that a future Congress will not expand the uses of the mandatory E-Verify system.  Remember, when the Social Security system was created, Americans were promised the card would only be used to help administer the Social Security program.  Yet today, this Committee is considering making the Social Security number the very foundation of a massive new identification system.

 

Is it really so inconceivable that if this Congress passes mandatory E-Verify legislation, the day may come when Americans will not be not be able to board an airplane or exercise their Second Amendment rights until the E-Verify database has confirmed they have federal permission to do so?  There is also nothing stopping a future Congress from linking the E-Verify system to other databases containing Americans’ health care, education, and other personal information.

 

The history of government officials using personal information to harass and punish citizens who oppose current government policies provides another reason to oppose mandatory E-Verify.  An obvious example of the threat of giving government officials access to citizens’ personal information is the history of the USSR and other communist countries.  However, one does not have to look overseas for examples of how politicians have used, or abused, information collected by government to harass their enemies or consolidate their power.  Think of how unscrupulous politicians in both parties have used IRS information to harass and intimidate their political opponents.  Or, imagine what uses a future Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, or Lois Lerner could make of the E-Verify database.

 

Mr. Chairman, mandatory E-Verify violates the Constitution.  More importantly, requiring every American “show their papers” in order to obtain federal permission to hold a job is incompatible with a free society.  Mandatory E-Verify will also deprive Americans of job opportunities through false positives while providing politicians and others with opportunities to use the information in the database to harass their political and other enemies.  Furthermore, there is no way a future Congress can be restrained from increasing the uses of the E-Verify system or syncing it to other databases to complete a massive, universal data system that could seal the transformation of America into a total surveillance state.

 

For these reasons, I urge the committee to reject the “Legal Workforce Act” or other legislation containing mandatory E-Verify.

 

 


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