The Washington Post reports that the federal government is considering using credit-rating firm Equifax to verify the identity of U.S. workers. There have been numerous proposals for different identification-verification plans. Often, these are billed as identifying undocumented workers, but fail to mention that all job-seekers — including US citizens — will be forced to undergo these verification systems. One proposal for a worker-identification system came in 2009; the Washington Post reported that Senate Democrats were looking to change federal immigration laws (after failing to overhaul them in 2007). Legislators were seeking to require “that all U.S. workers verify their identity through fingerprints or an eye scan.” Last year, in a Washington Post editorial, Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) announced a framework for immigration reform that included gathering biometric data on all workers. (Here’s what I thought about that plan.)
The Post reports on the proposal by the Department of Homeland Security, “which is still preliminary and would probably require congressional approval.”
On Monday, the government announced that it would begin allowing individuals in the District, Virginia and four other states to voluntarily use a system provided by Equifax to verify their identity. Once they did that, they could access a federal database to verify their authorization to work. The move will help the small number of legally authorized immigrants and U.S. citizens who encounter problems each year when an employer runs their Social Security numbers through the E-Verify system.
By giving workers the ability to check their records before they apply for a job, authorities said that citizens and immigrants who are authorized to work will be able to take care of spelling mistakes and other common errors. The voluntary program will be piloted in the District, Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Mississippi. It will be expanded nationwide in the coming months.
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the government planned to use the initiative to evaluate how the third-party verification system worked, with a view to making the tool available to employers. […]
Neither employers nor the federal government will gain information about worker queries under the new self-check system. Mayorkas also said that employers will not be permitted to force employees to do self-checks.
The Post also reports that “Mayorkas said he has concerns about how the federal government would deal with errors in third-party databases.” It is important for the government to determine how it will deal with mistakes in these database, because data brokers’ files have been proved to be filled with errors.
For example, when a news reporter looked up his file on data broker Intellius.com, he found the record said he was charged with child molestation (he wasn’t) and that he had a close male relative who was convicted of manslaughter (the reporter had never heard of the man). There are numerous errors in the records of data broker ChoicePoint, used by the FBI and IRS. A man bought his ChoicePoint record and found that the file showed he had died in 1976. Another man’s report included numerous crimes that he never committed.
Basing employment eligibility on false and outdated data that can be a part of commercial profiles of individuals would harm innocent, hard-working people.