Would E-Verify result in a national ID database?

Yet another glitch seems to be popping up in the immigration reform debate, and I’ll confess that I really didn’t see this one coming. One portion of the proposal regards expanding – and making mandatory in a variety of cases – the use of the E-Verify system. This would ensure that employers were making use of the system to screen out illegal immigrants when hiring. But if it applies to immigrants, in the opinion of some observers, it winds up applying to everyone. And that could lead to the equivalent of a national ID database.

“Over time, this could become a single, national, searchable database of vital biographic information and photgraphs of nearly every American,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. “I want to make sure we embed privacy protections in the system, both in how it is built and administered so that data cannot easily be stolen, and also that the information is only used for legitimate purposes.”

Homeland Security Department officials consider such fears unwarranted because E-Verify simply reaches out to other existing government computer systems, like Social Security records or passport records, to confirm a person’s identity and work eligibility. ..

Just as Social Security numbers became adopted for identification uses never intended, E-Verify, they say, would draw many unexpected uses.

“We are wary of giving the federal government this kind of centralized power over our daily lives,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, wrote in an opinion article in The Washington Times, opposing the plan for expanding the E-Verify system.

And here I’d been foolishly thinking that E-Verify was a good idea, and one that most of us were on board with. For starters, the ACLU absolutely hates it, so that was one mark in its favor right up front. But some of the civil libertarians out there – who I generally sympathize with – have issues with it.

I can completely understand the inherent distrust we have in the federal government having massive “lists” of any kind when it comes to citizens. Those of us who follow the Second Amendment wars are already far too familiar the idea of a national gun registry and why that’s a bad idea. In fact, the entire concept of Washington keeping lists of every American having or doing something should rightly be suspect. But a list of names and addresses? Don’t we already sort of have that with the census? (Yes, yes… I know. Census data is supposed to be locked off from any other use than establishing representation, but if you believe that I’ve got a bridge to sell you.)

Personally, I never had a problem with the idea of a national ID card being available, provided it wasn’t mandatory. If it gets you through the TSA line faster or helps establish your qualifications at the voting booth, it actually seems like a useful tool for those interested in having one. Of course, demanding that you have one just to get a job may wind up crossing some sort of line from there. I’m honestly not sure how this would play out yet. Your thoughts?