HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today passed two bills to force state contractors and all construction businesses to use the federal E-Verify program, an online database program run by the federal government. After the vote, The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania responded that E-Verify is an invasion of privacy and that the bills may be unconstitutional.
"Through E-Verify, the federal government has put the 445 million records in the Social Security database on the internet, available to any skillful hacker," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "This should send a chill down the spine of anyone who has a Social Security number.
"By passing these bills, the state House has given its stamp of approval to this invasion of privacy."
House Bill 1502 would require that all state contractors use E-Verify while House Bill 1503 would require that all construction employers use the program. E-Verify allows employers to check data from an employee or applicant with data in the Social Security Administration's database and a Department of Homeland Security database.
Hoover noted that the bills' ability to survive a court challenge is questionable.
"Laws with E-Verify provisions in Hazleton and in Oklahoma have been struck down by the courts," Hoover said. "The courts have ruled that immigration regulation is the responsibility of the federal government, not the states and cities."
A great deal of the debate surrounding E-Verify has been focused on the errors in the databases. A recent study commissioned by the federal government and conducted by the research firm Westat found that 54 percent of unauthorized workers put through E-Verify actually came back as authorized to work.
Employers have been reporting and testifying to Congress that errors affecting authorized workers occur about 10-15 percent of the time. Research also indicates that the errors in the databases disproportionately affect naturalized citizens and legal residents.
"E-Verify is not ready for prime time," Hoover said. "It's unfortunate that the House has passed two bills that take Pennsylvania knee-deep into an unworkable program."