IN a report to Congress tomorrow, a federal commission will
recommend establishment of a computerized, national registry to
try to prevent unauthorized foreigners from working in this
The registry, which would compile minimal data on United States
residents from the Social Security Administration and the
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), would be easily
accessible to employers, who must ensure that all people they hire
are allowed to work.
To former Rep. Barbara Jordan (D) of Texas, chairman of the
United States Commission on Immigration Reform, the registry
represents "the most promising option for more secure,
nondiscriminatory verification" of work status. The commission
proposes that the five states with the largest number of
undocumented workers - California, New York, Florida, Texas, and
Illinois - test the idea first in pilot programs.
The underlying theory is that if it becomes more difficult for
illegal aliens to find work in the US, they will stop coming in
such large numbers. But civil libertarians and immigrant-rights
groups, raising the specter of Big Brother, are geared up to try to
squelch the registry proposal.
"There will be no way to guarantee when and how the
verification system is used," says Cecilia Munoz, senior policy
analyst of the Washington-based National Council of La Raza, a
Latino organization, raising one of many objections to the plan.
The US commission, in fact, intentionally publicized the
outlines of its proposal weeks ago so that critics would air their
complaints and the commission could fine-tune its plan before
tomorrow's unveiling to Congress, says Susan Martin, the
commission's executive director.
"We have taken very, very seriously the concerns with civil
liberties," says Ms. Martin. "We are trying to touch on all the
protections that need to be in place."
For example, she says, the registry would be a separate database
containing the minimal information a job applicant would need to
supply to cross-check eligibility for work - name, Social Security
number, date of birth, and mother's maiden name - in addition to
information on a person's work status from the INS, if that person
is a foreigner. Separate databases help keep curious eyes from
peering into information they have no business seeing, say
supporters of the plan.
Some civil libertarians argue that the commission proposal would
start the US down a slippery slope toward issuance of national
identity cards to all Americans, and the potential for excessive
government control over people's lives. …