Are National ID Cards the Answer to Immigration Reform?

With about 11 million undocumented foreign nationals currently living and working in the United States, some feel the solution to our immigration issues lie in the use of biometrics and the creation of a national ID card. 

The debate over using biometrics and national ID cards surfaces ever few years, most notably following the events of September 11, 2001.  In fact, the 9-11 Commission Report recommended the use of tamper-proof identification to increase national security.  In 2005, President George W. Bush attempted to move towards that goal with the Real ID Act which set federal standards for drivers’ licenses and identification cards and left the issuance of cards and the maintenance of databases to the States.  However, many states have declined or delayed compliance. 

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, wants to further the use of biometrics in immigration matters.  In a recent interview, Napolitano said that as part of immigration reform she would like to implement the biometric scanning of all undocumented foreign nationals.   She recommends a window of time in which undocumented foreign nationals can register and be scanned, pay a fine, and continue to live and work in the US, “right with the law.”  

Also voicing their support of biometrics are Senators Charles Schumer, D-NY, Robert Menendez, D-NJ, and Harry Reid, D-NV.  The group recently proposed new immigration reform that includes the creation of a national biometric ID card similar to a high-tech, tamper-proof social security card.  According to the proposal, within five years of implementation, the new biometric card would be the only means of verifying employment eligibility.  Opponents point to high implementation costs and privacy issues.  Schumer has addressed the privacy concerns by stating the cards would not contain trackers and that biometric information would be housed only on the card and not in a government databases. 

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