Democrat: Public more comfortable with idea of national ID card
Civil liberties groups and even some die-hard supporters of the Democratic Party are raising the alarm over the Democrats’ proposed immigration overhaul, which would see the creation of a national biometric ID card.
“If the biometric national ID card provision of the draft bill becomes law, every worker in America would have to be fingerprinted and a new federal bureaucracy – one that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars – would have to be created to issue cards,” the ACLU said in a statement Thursday, following the release of Senate Democrat’s 28-page proposal (PDF) for comprehensive immigration reform.
“Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy – one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU Legislative Counsel.
As Ezra Klein notes at the Washington Post, no fewer than 10 pages of the proposal are devoted to the “Believe System,” which sets up an ID card for everyone in the work force. “Believe” is an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment. The Social Security Administration would be responsible for running the ID card system.
The Democrats’ proposal, whose main backers include Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, makes it clear that the ID cards are intended solely for the purpose of eliminating undocumented immigrants from the work force. It would be illegal for any corporation, level of government or law enforcement officer “to require or even ask an individual cardholder to produce their social security card for any purpose other than electronic verification of employment eligibility and verification of identity for Social Security Administration purposes.”
But that does not satisfy many activist groups, including some pro-Democrat groups supporting immigration reform. An unnamed representative of one such group told The Hill that the ID card proposal sounds “Orwellian.”
The ID card proposal “will give people some pause,” said Angela Kelley, immigration policy chief at the liberal Center for American Progress, as quoted at The Hill.
Sen. Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, defended the proposal in the face of early criticism, telling The Hill that he believes the public has become more comfortable with the idea of a national identification card.
“The biometric identification card is a critical element here,” Durbin said. “For a long time it was resisted by many groups, but now we live in a world where we take off our shoes at the airport and pull out our identification. … People understand that in this vulnerable world, we have to be able to present identification.”
Among the other elements of the immigration proposal is an eight-year waiting list for amnesty for undocumented migrants. Provided an undocumented migrant currently in the US pays his or her taxes, does not commit a crime and learns English in an eight-year period, they will be eligible for legal status.
The proposal comes just one day after both President Barack Obama and the top Republican House representative suggested that immigration reform is unlikely to happen this year. There “may not be an appetite” for immigration reform this year, Obama said, while House Minority Leader John Boehner said, “There is not a chance that immigration is going to move through the Congress.”
The proposal is taking heat in many corners of the media that tend to be supportive of Democratic initiatives.
The plan “outdoes Arizona in bigotry,” asserts Anis Shivani at the Huffington Post.