Employment verification plan triggers fears of Big Brother


Rob Hotakainen
McClatchy Newspapers
May 19, 2008

WASHINGTON — For critics, the idea is an Orwellian nightmare: The federal government would begin signing off on every hiring decision made in the United States.

It’s the latest plan to stop illegal immigrants from entering the country. The nation’s 7.4 million employers would be required to provide the government with Social Security numbers for all new employees — more than 55 million each year — and federal employees would then use a massive electronic database to do crosschecks. The new system would aim to detect any workers who got their jobs by using fraudulent Social Security numbers.

For advocates, though, it’s a fine idea, an easy way to quickly verify the eligibility status of new employees.

“If the government turns a blind eye to illegal behavior, our rule of law will be undermined and chaos will ensue,” said Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., one of 32 House of Representatives members pushing a bill to create the system.

Whether it’s regarded as Big Brother or a big improvement, the plan is getting a good vetting on Capitol Hill. It has enormous implications for employers and the Social Security Administration, which would conduct the background checks.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the plan, says the legislation would create a “no-work list” in the Washington bureaucracy.

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