Tea Party activists say they believe in limited government. The Bill of Rights is all about limiting the power of government. The ACLU defends the people’s rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and elsewhere in the constitution. Thus, one would assume that Tea Party and the ACLU would agree quite often. If only it were that easy.
Nevertheless, a few weeks ago a coalition of more than two dozen Tea Party, conservative, and libertarian groups dropped a proverbial bombshell into the politics of immigration. In a letter to Congress and in an ad that ran in Politico, the coalition came out against the federal bill from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) that would mandate the use of the E-Verify national identity system on all employers. In the letter and the ad, the coalition said:
Requiring citizens to secure permission from the Department of Homeland Security to enjoy the fruits of their labor is an unacceptable violation of our civil liberties…
E-Verify:-Creates a de facto national I.D. system – even for citizens;-Violates individual civil liberties such as the right to work & free speech;- Mandates a costly job-killing regulatory burden that cripples small business;-Requires employers to become enforcement agents of the federal government;-Encourages identity theft of citizens.
E-Verify is an online database program administered by the federal government. The databases used in E-Verify are from the Social Security Administration and from the Department of Homeland Security and contain more than 500 million personal data records. If you have a Social Security number, your information is there, on the internet. Under current law, employers can sign up to participate but are not mandated to do so.
The conservative groups agree with what the ACLU has been saying. E-Verify poses major privacy problems and creates the infrastructure of a national identity system. Today employers have access to the data. Who is going to have access to the data in the future?
The conservative coalition’s letter and ad had to have been a punch in the gut to Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who once said that he “was a Tea Partier before it was cool,” and other members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly who are trying to mandate E-Verify on all employers. On Tuesday, the House State Government Committee, of which Metcalfe is the chair, is scheduled to take up a slate of anti-immigrant bills, including House Bill 858 to mandate E-Verify.