Over the past few years, the Tea Party has arisen from an impassioned backlash on the size of government and its consequences for individual freedoms. Regardless of how one might feel about their policy prescriptions, the movement has been influential in provoking discussion on government action in our daily lives. Unexpectedly, the Tea Party has begun to broaden their interests to focus on E-Verify, a highly controversial program used to verify the eligibility of workers.
In an open letter to Congress, many Tea Party groups expressed strong disapproval over a recent bill, which mandates the use of E-Verify for all businesses. The conservative coalition points out many negative economic effects of this bill, but they also identify the proposal's impact on civil liberties and the potential for a national ID system:
The Act empowers the Department of Homeland Security to compile and monitor the personal information of every person seeking employment, and to surreptitiously transfer it to yet unspecified entities.
The result is a de facto National Identification System, and the enabling language that mandates the intrusive collection of personal data could grow to include biometrics such as fingerprints, DNA and/or iris scan. This invasion becomes tantamount an unconstitutional, warrantless search.
The letter aptly suggests that E-Verify would violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, but it fails to point out further consequences for many minority communities. OneAmerica, an immigrant advocacy organization, notes that the implementation of E-Verify would result in discrimination against immigrant populations.
E-Verify is just one government program that Tea Party enthusiasts should find objectionable. Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic claims that if you’re worried about big government, then you should be worried about war too. Since 9/11, the federal government has engaged in costly wars and unending attacks on civil liberties. Friedersdorf makes an astute historical connection between many wars and the suspension of civil liberties:
Excepting slavery and Jim Crow, all the most oppressive laws and extra-legal measures in American history have been passed in the name of war or national security: the Alien and Sedition Acts, Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus, the Espionage Act and Woodrow Wilson's other radical World War I era excesses. You'd think that the advent of another war would cause left and right alike to be on guard against excesses. Throughout American history, during just, necessary wars and wars of choice alike, civil liberties have suffered in the most extreme ways.
The violation of basic civil liberties is not a partisan issue; it is a concern for individuals of all ideological perspectives. The Tea Party, along with the rest of America, should continue to speak out against invasive, unconstitutional programs.