By Martin Bosworth
Like a zombie lurching from the grave, the Senate has decided to resurrect the behemoth “guest worker compromise” immigration bill. And just as before, not only will this bill create a permanent underclass of indentured slave labor that will depress American wages and crush union negotiating clout, but it will be a security disaster that will expose millions of workers to identity theft, and offer a back door to a default national identity card.
Carolyn Lockhead at the SF Chronicle accurately predicted on Monday how much of a mess implementing this new law will be:
A government that cannot issue passports to 3 million U.S. citizens in time for summer holidays is expected to create a vast work-authorization system for more than 7 million U.S. employers and eventually all 146 million U.S. workers that is quick, accurate and safe.
Yet according to a confidential new study commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security, the system that would do this — known as Web Basic Pilot — is vulnerable to identity theft, employer misuse, privacy breaches and data inaccuracies. Heavy enforcement would be required to prevent it from being evaded by illegal workers and employers alike.
I’ve written on several occasions that the basic weakness in these verification systems is the ability to forge “breeder documents” — birth certificate, Social Security card, driver’s license, etc. Without a system to effectively verify literally billions of paper documents–an expensive proposition in its own right–any sort of employer database is not only going to be a goldmine for thieves and hackers, but it will be riddled with such bad information that it’ll make a credit bureau look like a model of accuracy.
This proposition will never succeed as it stands. Employers will balk at the onerous reporting requirements. Workers will balk at giving up more of their information. IT departments will balk at the huge costs and effort of implementing these reporting requirements. So the architects of the immigration bill are using a “back door”–by requiring employees to have a REAL ID-authenticated ID card to be considered “verified.”
REAL ID is a monstrously unpopular program that is opposed by the governors and state legislatures of over half the fifty states. It is an unfunded mandate, which means that states will have to come up with the money to fund upgrading their DMVs, training their workers, and now creating the IT systems necessary to ensure the licenses comply with the immigration bill’s verification system. Anyone who has ever spent a day at their local DMV can tell you how foolhardy the idea of making these folks the frontlines for antiterrorism and immigration enforcement is.
And just like the REAL ID bill itself was shoehorned into an Iraq war authorization bill with no debate, now it’s going to be used as the “reacharound” to ensure that the immigration bill’s otherwise deeply flawed security provisions get the duke. And that can’t be allowed to happen.
I wrote a little bit about this at Private Intelligence as well, including links to get help to stop this from becoming law.