For a while now, GovWin has speculated that federal immigration reform would have some impact on the states and localities. With this issue getting hotter than a habanero pepper down in Arizona, I figured it was time to peruse the recently released "Conceptual Proposal for Immigration Reform" as put forward by Democratic Senators Reid (NV), Schumer (NY), and Menendez (NJ).
Now, keep in mind this is just the first salvo in what is sure to be an extended battle that could very well end in no immigration reform legislation being passed this year. But, it is good to start getting our bearings as to what the likely state and local IT impacts might be when/if some sort of immigration reform gets done down the road.
The most striking item in the proposal is the Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment (BELIEVE) System as a means of verification. Let me quote from the proposal directly...
"Prospective employees will present a machine-readable, fraud proof, biometric Social Security card to their employers, who will swipe the cards through a card-reader to confirm the cardholder's identity and work authorization. The cardholder's work authorization will be verified by matching a digital encryption key contained within the card to a digital encryption key contained within the work authorization database being searched. The cardholder's identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the micro-processing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer." (PDF p. 11)
After more than ten years of observing government IT, I have developed a helpful law regarding IT system nomenclature as follows: "The likelihood of a given IT system proving effective is inversely related to the cleverness of the acronym by which it is named." In fact, the acronym for this system is so tortured, that I seriously doubt anything like it will ever exist. DHS should simply beef up the mundanely named E-Verify system.
All kidding aside, turning the Social Security card into a national workforce ID card is a non-starter. I can only assume it is put forward to provide some swing-vote Senators with something egregious to hack away at in order to create space for a compromise. At any rate, the BELIEVE system is fed-centric in order to avoid the same sort of Keystone Cops runaround created by trying to force states to build toward a common ID standard with REAL-ID.
Here are the items from the proposal with clear state and local IT impact:
- "All criminals in federal, state, and local prisons will be checked for lawful immigration status and will be deported if they are here illegally" (PDF p. 6). This will require integrating the verification process into all correctional processes and with DHS's national verification system.
- "The government will require any state or local entity that participates in the 287(g) program to collect and maintain such records and data as are reasonably necessary to ensure that actions under the agreement comply with federal law" (PDF p. 8). This would represent a new document exchange for all criminal records systems with DHS's national verification system.
- States will be required to "retain birth and death data within three years of enactment" of reform (PDF p. 17). Of course, this means retain them in a way that will play nicely with the new national verification system. Birth and death records are basically the bookends of a person's legal identity in society. This will force states to centralize state and county-based processes and systems on a new national standard.
Let the debate begin!