Immigration as Pretext for National ID System

10 12 2007

If you pay close attention to his stump speech on immigration, you will notice former Mayor Rudy Guiliani follows up on every discussion about securing the border with one about creating an identification card for immigrants. To curb unauthorized immigration, Guiliani believes it is not enough to create a physical fence along the Southern border, though he is for that too, the United States has to build a technological one as well.

Immigrants, including tourists from overseas, would receive a so-called tamper proof bio-metric identification card, which would document someone’s fingerprints or maybe perform an eye retinal scan. All the data contained within this card would be downloaded into a massive governmental database. Those who do not want to submit to that kind of scrutiny would simply not be admitted into the country.

But Guiliani would not date do anything of the sort to actual U.S. citizens. Wrong. As Mayor of New York, he actually required welfare applicants and recipients, or “welfare people,” as likes to call them, to undergo electronic fingerprinting as a means to deter fraud. Some conservatives hailed the program yet conveniently ignored drastic incursions on civil liberties.

Watch Guiliani deliver his pitch to a more than receptive Bill O’Reilly.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich also came out in favor of a similar proposal a few months ago in Ames, Iowa while he was still trying to generate interest about his possible candidacy. But while Guiliani drew inspiration from his authoritarian instincts, Gingrich drew his inspiration from the workings of the market.

According to Gingrich, just as FedEx or UPS uses technology to track the movements of packages as the move about the country, immigrants could be tracked the same way as they move from place to place. A truly remarkable comparison that somehow overlooks the fact that people are not packages.

Watch it.

Aside from the obvious irony that such a policy initiative should offend the sensibilities of any self-respecting Barry Goldwater Republican, there is also the fact that an economic adviser to the Guilani campaign vehemently opposed such an identification regime more than 20 years ago. As Jeffrey Feldman notes on Frame Shop, Annelise Anderson, a conservative economist at Stanford, railed against such worker identification schemes in a journal article back in 1986. The paper is called “Illegal Aliens and Employer Sanctions: Solving the Wrong Problem.”

In her essay, Anderson warned:

Worker identification would lead inequitably to a centralized, national identification system. It constitutes a threat to civil liberties and should be rejected. Requirements for worker identification would encourage a fraudulent documents industry and create pressures for centralized control and tracking of birth and death records. The resulting system would be available to the authorities to use for a variety of purposes for which it was not originally intended – terrorism, civil disturbance, whatever.

The historical evidence suggests that governments do use the powers available to them. Setting in motion forces that are likely to lead to a national identification card or system is thus a step of extraordinarily serious magnitude for which there is no current justification.

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