Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Secure the Border Act of 2023. Among other things, the bill would mandate that all employers use the E‑Verify program to prove that their new hires have federal authorization to work. A coalition of conservative advocacy organizations praised this provision because it would “turn off the ‘jobs magnet’ for illegal immigration.”
But is this good? Should the U.S. government really have the power to “turn off jobs”? The answer for people who believe in limited government is clearly no. The government in a free society should not have the power to decide who can work; free people shouldn’t have to request permission to work; and the founders of this country could not possibly have imagined a scenario where the federal government held a kill switch for everyone’s right to earn a living.
E‑Verify attempts to be a form of electronic national identification. Currently, it just runs a person’s name and Social Security Number against government databases. But the government is already incorporating photo IDs into the program, and it is only a matter of time before that becomes mandatory as well. The Secure the Border Act of 2023 mandates the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to pilot additional, possibly biometric, verification mechanisms as well.
Mandatory E‑Verify would create a centralized electronic record of all your employment activity, and the inevitable expansion to other economic and social activities would locate within DHS a comprehensive surveillance tool unlike any in the history of the United States. Unlike passive surveillance systems, E‑Verify could quickly be used to “turn off” the rights of people targeted by the government.
Right now, the “banned list” only includes people ineligible to work in the United States (which includes many people here legally but not eligible to work). But the immigration logic behind E‑Verify obviously extends to absolutely anything a person might want to do in the United States while here illegally. Laws already ban or surveil their use of transit, driver’s licenses, bank accounts, apartments, gun sales, and access to certain federal buildings. Will conservatives oppose “turning off the bank account magnet” or allow illegal immigrants to buy guns? I doubt it.
Conservatives who zealously promote this massive expansion of government power in the name of cleansing the labor market of unwanted foreign workers should think twice about whom a left‐leaning DHS would want to target years from now. One of the few members of Congress who understands the threat is Thomas Massie (R‑KY) who told the House Judiciary Committee, “Why are we making another list? These always get turned against us and they’re never used for the purpose that they were intended.”
E‑Verify actually has broad bipartisan support. Democrats only oppose it because it is not in a bill with a legalization of illegal immigrants. Under those circumstances, Democrats will gladly hand over federal power over employment to DHS. But once the illegal immigrants are all legal, would E‑Verify keep to its original purpose? I doubt it.
Who could have predicted that Social Security Numbers—which were created solely for the purpose of giving Americans a taxpayer check—would morph into our national ID number attached to health care, banking, and so much else? Of course, many did predict this, and the government assured them that Social Security cards and numbers were not for identification purposes. But that changed very quickly, and an E‑Verify system would evolve along the same lines.
Once the system is nationwide and mandatory for all, every politician will argue, “We already do it for illegal immigrants. Are illegal immigrants any worse than… ‘deadbeat dads,’ ‘tax cheats,’ ‘criminals,’ ‘anti‐vaxxers,’ ‘gun dealers,’ ‘racists,’ ‘insurrectionists,’ etc.?” Do conservatives trust DHS to define these terms?
The government should not have the power to “shut off jobs,” or shut off housing, or shut off the Internet, or anything else—especially not in a way that allows for targeting of specific, disfavored groups. E‑Verify should not exist. Congress should stop putting hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars into it. Since freedom depends on the powers of government being limited, every patriotic American should oppose E‑Verify.