National ID Card Being Considered By Senators

As Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are working on a Senate version of comprehensive immigration reform and it includes a very controversial idea. There is a provision in the draft bill to force all Americans to possess a biometric ID card. Sources on Capitol Hill confirm to Big Government that the idea of a national ID card is part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill being negotiated between Graham and Schumer.


Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal reports:

Lawmakers working to craft a new comprehensive immigration bill have settled on a way to prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants: a national biometric identification card all American workers would eventually be required to obtain.

Under the pre-text of halting illegal immigration, Congress may consider forcing citizens to carry an ID card as a condition of citizenship. For those who mistrust big government and treasure freedom, this idea should be revolting and a shocking example of a bad idea run wild. American citizens’ freedoms have been eroding over the past few years, yet this idea is much more than an erosion of rights. It is an all out assault on the idea that Americans have a natural right to be free of government monitoring.

The Wall Street Journal further reports:

Under the potentially controversial plan still taking shape in the Senate, all legal U.S. workers, including citizens and immigrants, would be issued an ID card with embedded information, such as fingerprints, to tie the card to the worker. The ID card plan is one of several steps advocates of an immigration overhaul are taking to address concerns that have defeated similar bills in the past.

Adding the national ID cared idea to the mix will cause both the right and the left to band together against this provision forcing all Americans to carry an identification card containing fingerprints and other biometric information. To say this is an invasion of privacy is an understatement. There is no provision in the Constitution that grants the federal government the power nor the right to force Americans to be fingerprinted and to carry an identification card against their will. This is not a new idea

Senator Schumer stated at a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Immigration, on July 21, 2009 that any employer identification system needs to include a means to “authenticate the employee’s identity by using a specific and unique biometric identifier. This identifier could be a fingerprint, an enhanced biometric picture or other mechanism.” Schumer went on to say that “any new biometric-based employment system must have extensive checks at the beginning of the system to prevent illegal aliens from creating a false identity to enter into the new database. And, as I mentioned before this, we need to do this with the entity administering the new employment-verification system — will have access to public records, government databases, to ensure that the person seeking to enter the new employment-verification system is, in fact, the person they claim to be, and the person has legal status.” Schumer supports the creation of a new government bureaucracy to monitor your work status and to audit you if a government bureaucrat decides that your status is suspect. In essence, you are guilty of being an illegal immigrant, until you can prove otherwise.

This is the same federal government that has a hard time maintaining an accurate No-Fly list. The No-Fly list has prevented members of Congress from flying and is known to be riddled with errors, yet we are readying a database containing all American citizens. CBS News reports today

Current and former intelligence, counterterrorismand U.S. government officials provided The Associated Press a behind-the-scenes look at how the no-fly list is created. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security issues. Despite changes over time, the list remains an imperfect tool, dependent on the work of hundreds of government terrorism analysts who sift through massive flows of information. The list ballooned after Sept. 11 and has fluctuated in size over the past decade. In 2004, it included about 20,000 people. The standards for getting on the list have been refined over the years, and technology has improved to make the matching process more reliable.

The immigration bill is proving to be a heavy lift for Schumer and Graham, why they would add a national ID card to the mix defies logic. More from the WSJ:

The uphill effort to pass a bill is being led by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who plan to meet with President Barack Obama as soon as this week to update him on their work. An administration official said the White House had no position on the biometric card.

Clearly the Obama Administration recognize that this is a controversial issue that is incidental to the debate on immigration reform. Forcing all Americans to carry ID cards will cause may libertarian leaning liberals, who would usually support a reform effort, to have second thoughts about an immigration reform effort. No matter what you think of comprehensive immigration reform, this issue may prove to be an issue that could take down the bill.

The biggest objections to the biometric cards may come from privacy advocates, who fear they would become de facto national ID cards that enable the government to track citizens.

I would contest that assertion in the WSJ report and say that the biggest objections come from average everyday citizens who don’t want any further freedoms taken away in the name of stopping illegal immigrants from working in the United States. Both conservative and liberal groups will line up against this idea, because it is a frontal assault on basic freedom.

“It is fundamentally a massive invasion of people’s privacy,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re not only talking about fingerprinting every American, treating ordinary Americans like criminals in order to work. We’re also talking about a card that would quickly spread from work to voting to travel to pretty much every aspect of American life that requires identification.” Mr. Graham says he respects those concerns but disagrees. “We’ve all got Social Security cards,” he said. “They’re just easily tampered with. Make them tamper-proof. That’s all I’m saying.”

The American Civil Liberties Union will line up with conservative groups against this idea. Groups like Gun Owners of America will rightly see this as a first step toward national gun registration and privacy groups will see this as a first step toward the national ID card being used for more than merely proving to an employer that you are a citizen. Right and left have been on record in the past as being against the idea that all Americans have to carry identification cards as a condition of citizenship.

U.S. employers now have the option of using an online system called E-Verify to check whether potential employees are in the U.S. legally. Many Republicans have pressed to make the system mandatory. But others, including Mr. Schumer, complain that the existing system is ineffective.

E-Verify seems like a reasonable alternative to forcing all Americans to carry an ID card, yet business groups and immigrant advocacy groups resist the system’s universal implementation. E-Verify is a government run Internet based system where an employer to electronically verify the eligibility of an employee. This seems like a much less invasive way to take care of the problem than a national ID card.

Most European countries require citizens and foreigners to carry ID cards. The U.K. had been a holdout, but in the early 2000s it considered national cards as a way to stop identify fraud, protect against terrorism and help stop illegal foreign workers. Amid worries about the cost and complaints that the cards infringe on personal privacy, the government said it would make them voluntary for British citizens. They are required for foreign workers and students, and so far about 130,000 cards have been issued.

The Brits seem to have it right. If you are a foreign worker or student, a biometric card makes sense, but the federal government does not have the right to force citizens to carry ID cards. The federal government derives power from the consent of the governed and any strong arm attempt by the federal government to impose a card on citizens ignores the nature of our constitutional democratic republic.

A person familiar with the legislative planning said the biometric data would likely be either fingerprints or a scan of the veins in the top of the hand. It would be required of all workers, including teenagers, but would be phased in, with current workers needing to obtain the card only when they next changed jobs, the person said.

Does this sound like the way citizens should be treated in a free nation? Mandatory fingerprinting or scanning the hands of all Americans is a scary idea.

Mr. Schumer said employers would be able to buy a scanner to check the IDs for as much as $800. Small employers, he said, could take their applicants to a government office to like the Department of Motor Vehicles and have their hands scanned there.

This idea by Senator Schumer would allow the federal government to have your biometric data. Furthermore, if you have to go to a state Department of Motor Vehicles, then the state you work in will have your fingerprint and other mandatory biometric data. This is a crazy idea and hopefully it does not get past the idea stage. The fact that his is a bipartisan idea should strike fear in the hearts of all those who mistrust big government. Our elected officials in Washington, D.C. seem to more and more out of touch with the average American citizen every day.