By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
ST. PETERSBURG — As Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio basks in the political limelight as the newly anointed ’savior’ of the Republican Party, all eyes are on his bipartisan immigration proposal released last week.
The framework, presented with support from seven other lawmakers, including Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., aims to create a “tough but fair” approach to addressing the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
But while the plan addresses increasing border patrols and imposing penalties for illegal immigrants, it also proposes expanding the use of a national database of workers’ status.
“Dramatically reducing future illegal immigration can only be achieved by developing a tough, fair, effective and mandatory employment verification system,” the plan says.
The policy would forbid private employers from hiring workers unless they have been cleared through E-Verify.
Rubio has supported E-Verify throughout his term in the Senate, including a recent bill which failed in the previous session.
“A modernization of the legal immigration system is impossible unless we must first secure the border and implement an E-Verify system that will help prevent the hiring and exploitation of undocumented workers,” Rubio said in a statement after co-sponsoring Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley‘s 2011 bill to mandate the use of E-Verify nationwide.
Some policy experts have raised privacy and economic concerns about broader use of the database.
“American citizens and their employers are not immigration agents. They shouldn’t be forced to police their workforces on behalf of the federal government,” said David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. “Implementation of E-Verify would impose the costs of immigration enforcement on American citizens.”
Bier believes implementation of E-Verify nationwide would have daunting consequences for small businesses and Americans who strongly adhere to the principles of the Bill of Rights.
“Using employers as a fourth arm of the government is not the framework that the founders of this country envisioned when they created the Constitution,” Bier said. “When you have a giant database on every single person, you can easily identify them and create a monitoring system for their activities.
“The expansion of this could go anywhere. We could monitor access to stadiums, monitor access to the Internet, to anything the government wanted based on an E-Verify database with every single American and every single legal resident in the United States,” he told Florida Watchdog.
Bier worries that the technology is prone to identity theft and won’t be that effective at trafficking those without legal papers.
“The government’s own audits have found that more than 50 percent of workers who are unauthorized beat the E-Verify system and get jobs anyway,” he said.
Arizona, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah and South Carolina require the use of E-Verify for all employees, while several states, including Florida, have the database in place for state agencies and government contractors.
Delivering on a campaign promise, Gov. Rick Scott signed the executive order in 2011.
On Jan. 1, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee extended E-Verify programs for state agencies and contractors to cover employees in the private sector as well.
Pennsylvania, on the other hand, recently ushered the program in just for state workers.
Agricultural employers have typically opposed E-Verify, but Rubio and his colleagues provide for such reservations in their proposal.
Agricultural workers will be “treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population” because of their importance to maintaining the American “food supply,” according to the plan.
Furthermore, the plan calls for increasing the number of surveillance drones on the borders with Canada and Mexico and beefing up the number of border security agents, as well as making undocumented immigrants pay back taxes to make up their “debt to society.”
Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment, but he has taken exception to all the attention.
On Thursday he published a tweet from his official account reminding his followers:
There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 7, 2013