Congress debates national ID card

By Oregon Tax News

In an attempt to deal with the immigration issue, key senators are considering a bill which would force all workers, citizens and non-citizens alike, to prove their eligibility to work via a national biometric ID card, using fingerprints or other personal markers.

Biometric ID vs. E-Verify

No firm decisions have been made, but three of the eight senators working on the bill, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), have stated support for a national biometric ID, although they are open to other options. The goal is for employers to quickly check the legal status of an applicant and to discourage immigrants from illegally entering the country to obtain jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports expanding the E-Verify System, which is currently used by only a fraction of businesses. The Chamber has not taken a position on biometric ID. E-Verify matches prospective hires with Social Security numbers and other data. However, personal ID theft can foil the system. The guidelines for the proposed bill call for workers to prove their legal status by “non-forgeable electronic means.”

Broad Opposition

The biometric ID, inferred by vague language of lawmakers working on the bi-partisan bill, has had a broad coalition of groups concerned about security and privacy issues. A 2010 press release by the ACLU cited a letter urging the President and Congress to oppose Biometric National ID. The letter states:

“Both Republicans and Democrats have opposed a National ID system. President Reagan likened a 1981 proposal to the biblical “mark of the beast,” and President Clinton dismissed a similar plan because it smacked of Big Brother.

“As happened with Social Security cards decades ago, use of such ID cards would quickly spread and be used for other purposes – from travel to voting to gun ownership.” Along with the ACLU, the letter was signed by forty-three groups, including The Rutherford Institute, American Policy Center, American Library Association, Hispanic Leadership Fund, and Home School Legal Defense Association.

Estimated Cost

A 2012 study at the University of California, Berkeley, law school reported that a national ID program would cost taxpayers $22.6 billion to create and $2.1 billion annually to operate.

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