When Republicans are doing bad things, you can count on democrats to offer to go them one better.
Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.
The proposal is one of the biggest differences between the newest immigration reform proposal and legislation crafted by late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.
It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.
â€œThe cardholderâ€™s identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer,â€ states the Democratic legislative proposal. …
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), who has worked on the proposal and helped unveil it at a press conference Thursday, predicted the public has become more comfortable with the idea of a national identification card.
â€œThe biometric identification card is a critical element here,â€ Durbin said. â€œFor 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.
â€œPeople understand that in this vulnerable world, we have to be able to present identification,â€ Durbin added. â€œWe want it to be reliable, and I think thatâ€™s going to help us in this debate on immigration.â€
Ezra Klein offers details of the democrat plan, and actually identifies the important irony. Note that all this does not give the ephebe Ezra any particular problem personally.
The Democrats’ immigration-reform proposal (pdf) is 26 pages long. Pages 8 through 18 are devoted to “ending illegal employment through biometric employment verification.” I don’t think the Democrats are going to like me calling this a biometric national ID card, as they go to great lengths to say that it is not a national ID card, and make it “unlawful for any person, corporation; organization local, state, or federal law enforcement officer; local or state government; or any other entity 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 it’s still a biometric national ID card. It’s handed out by the Social Security Administration and employers are required to check it when hiring new employees. Essentially, if you want to participate in the American economy, you need this card. “Within five (5) years of the date of enactment, the fraud-proof social security card will serve as the sole acceptable document to be produced by an employee to an employer for employment verification purposes,” the bill says. “This requirement will exist even if the employer does not yet possess the capability to electronically verify the employee by scanning the card through a card reader.”
The theory here is simple: Illegal immigration is a problem because illegal immigrants can get jobs. As the bill says, “in order to prevent future waves of illegal immigration, this proposal recognizes that no matter what we do on the border, our ports of entry, and in the interior, we will not be completely effective unless we can prevent the hiring, recruitment, or referral of unauthorized aliens in Americaâ€™s workplaces. Jobs are what draw illegal immigrants to the United States.” …
The oddity of this strategy, of course, is that anti-immigration sentiments run highest among the same communities that are most opposed to national ID cards. Now, it’s also the case that if you’re going to support citizenship searches for people with Hispanic-looking shoes, it’s a bit odd to worry about an ID card to verify employment. But even so, without Republicans on the bill to give this strategy cover, it’ll be interesting to see whether the anti-immigrant right embraces the ID card as a way of staunching the flow of illegal immigrants or assails Democrats for trying to create a biometric police state.