View Full Version : ID Card for Workers Is at Center of Immigration Plan

March 13th, 2010, 10:44 AM

MARCH 8, 2010

ID Card for Workers Is at Center of Immigration Plan


Lawmakers working to craft a new comprehensive immigration bill have settled on a way to prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants: a national biometric identification card all American workers would eventually be required to obtain.

Under the potentially controversial plan still taking shape in the Senate, all legal U.S. workers, including citizens and immigrants, would be issued an ID card with embedded information, such as fingerprints, to tie the card to the worker.

The ID card plan is one of several steps advocates of an immigration overhaul are taking to address concerns that have defeated similar bills in the past.

The uphill effort to pass a bill is being led by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who plan to meet with President Barack Obama as soon as this week to update him on their work. An administration official said the White House had no position on the biometric card.

"It's the nub of solving the immigration dilemma politically speaking," Mr. Schumer said in an interview. The card, he said, would directly answer concerns that after legislation is signed, another wave of illegal immigrants would arrive. "If you say they can't get a job when they come here, you'll stop it."

The biggest objections to the biometric cards may come from privacy advocates, who fear they would become de facto national ID cards that enable the government to track citizens.

"It is fundamentally a massive invasion of people's privacy," said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "We're not only talking about fingerprinting every American, treating ordinary Americans like criminals in order to work. We're also talking about a card that would quickly spread from work to voting to travel to pretty much every aspect of American life that requires identification."

Mr. Graham says he respects those concerns but disagrees. "We've all got Social Security cards," he said. "They're just easily tampered with. Make them tamper-proof. That's all I'm saying."

U.S. employers now have the option of using an online system called E-Verify to check whether potential employees are in the U.S. legally. Many Republicans have pressed to make the system mandatory. But others, including Mr. Schumer, complain that the existing system is ineffective.

Last year, White House aides said they expected to push immigration legislation in 2010. But with health care and unemployment dominating his attention, the president has given little indication the issue is a priority.

Rather, Mr. Obama has said he wanted to see bipartisan support in Congress first. So far, Mr. Graham is the only Republican to voice interest publicly, and he wants at least one other GOP co-sponsor to launch the effort.

An immigration overhaul has long proven a complicated political task. The Latino community is pressing for action and will be angry if it is put off again. But many Americans oppose any measure that resembles amnesty for people who came here illegally.

Under the legislation envisioned by Messrs. Graham and Schumer, the estimated 10.8 million people living illegally in the U.S. would be offered a path to citizenship, though they would have to register, pay taxes, pay a fine and wait in line. A guest-worker program would let a set number of new foreigners come to the U.S. legally to work.

Most European countries require citizens and foreigners to carry ID cards. The U.K. had been a holdout, but in the early 2000s it considered national cards as a way to stop identify fraud, protect against terrorism and help stop illegal foreign workers. Amid worries about the cost and complaints that the cards infringe on personal privacy, the government said it would make them voluntary for British citizens. They are required for foreign workers and students, and so far about 130,000 cards have been issued.

Mr. Schumer first suggested a biometric-based employer-verification system last summer. Since then, the idea has gained currency and is now a centerpiece of the legislation being developed, aides said.

A person familiar with the legislative planning said the biometric data would likely be either fingerprints or a scan of the veins in the top of the hand. It would be required of all workers, including teenagers, but would be phased in, with current workers needing to obtain the card only when they next changed jobs, the person said.

The card requirement also would be phased in among employers, beginning with industries that typically rely on illegal-immigrant labor.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn't have a position on the proposal, but it is concerned that employers would find it expensive and complicated to properly check the biometrics.

Mr. Schumer said employers would be able to buy a scanner to check the IDs for as much as $800. Small employers, he said, could take their applicants to a government office to like the Department of Motor Vehicles and have their hands scanned there.

—Alistair MacDonald contributed to this article.

Write to Laura Meckler at laura.meckler@wsj.com

March 13th, 2010, 11:49 AM
"Under the potentially controversial plan still taking shape in the Senate, all legal U.S. workers, including citizens and immigrants, would be issued an ID card with embedded information, such as fingerprints, to tie the card to the worker."

Although I guess it would not include people who are out of the workforce, isn't this really just a national identity card? Maybe they shoud just call it that and get it over with.

March 13th, 2010, 01:49 PM
I agree. It is a national identiy card. Instead of doing it right, let's go for the everything half-assed backwards method, the way things seem to be done in America these days. Why not put it on the table as such.

As such, let's look at individual countries in the the EU and look at the standards and decide on which minimum or maximum route to take regarding individual privacy and vote on it.

From what I can see from your article, it is another Congresstional Rube Goldberg style of American mismanagement trying to go the back door way to deal with immigration.

Why do I have to give up more freedom because the Government does not know how to manage our borders?

March 13th, 2010, 03:20 PM
When I was in Italy I had to obtain a Codice Fiscale -- a numbered identity card -- in order to work (or at least it was needed in order to get paid).

Perhaps that's more akin to a Social Security card but it seems only logical that all non-citizens should be required to get some sort of tamper-proof identifier.

Beyond my emotional resistance to fingerprinting I really don't see that big of a problem with a national identity card for citizens as well. In this day and age between cell phones, web activity, ATM cards, driver's licenses, etc. the government can track folks fairly easily. Unless a person is living totally underground and off the grid then privacy is something of an illusion these days.

March 13th, 2010, 05:27 PM
For the record: The Codice Fiscale is a tax number, required for work (whether citizen or non)... but it is not an identity card. There is no photo.

We do however have an identity card with photo that every resident must carry. No finger prints (as of yet).

March 13th, 2010, 08:34 PM
The card would simply be a biometric SS card. I really do understand why people 'worry' about it being a national ID card but the issue has devolved into what American politics always becomes - a screaming argument.

I don't like the idea of the government being in charge of anything as much as any libertarian but the reality is that if we didn't have SS cards (a form of, oh-no, national identification) we've have total Dark Ages madness with regards to employment and taxpaying. By introducing a new system we can effectively improve efficiency and adherence to law at, let's face it, no real cost in privacy.

In case someone hasn't told the conpsiracy theorists we already have state IDs and if anyone seriously wanted to track us to the extent that they could with the new SS card they'd simply follow our driver's license. Our vehement ID hatred is responsible for this country's worst security risks. We need effective control over who purchases chemicals, flight lessons, guns, tickets to Yemen, and a multitude of other pieces of info that have little to do with abridging privacy and are there to keep us reasonably safe.

This is of course a larger problem but I for one was pretty pissed off that the US intelligence community only found out the Americans in Yemen had worked at nuclear power plants when they caught them. This resonates a little too strongly given the fact that 3000 of us were murdered because no monitoring of employment and certain at-risk activities exists.

March 13th, 2010, 10:36 PM
Anyone who's worried about this is living in the wrong century. We leave electronic trails that glow like neon.

March 14th, 2010, 01:07 AM
Mine is a bit more like Halogen.....

Although as interesting as one of those old Mercury Vapor security lights you have outside of warehouses and stuff..... :(

I think the problem is simple. A dichotomy between our own desire for privacy and our willingness to forego it for convenience. Heavon forbid we deny ourselves our freedom when it comes to identifying ourselves to the national authorities, but when we need that car loan, or platinum card we are almost ready to give skin samples so long as the rates are low enough.

We live in a world where it takes almost as much of a background check to buy a car as it does to buy a gun....

maybe more in some states! Whassap wit dat?

March 15th, 2010, 04:16 PM
This is another excuse from the government to take away our freedom, this is exactly like a tracking device but not so stalking in ways, but it is still bloody hell like a stalking device, ugh rubbish!

March 15th, 2010, 05:16 PM
If you work regularly, use ATM / credit cards, have a cell phone or an IP address then they can already track you. What's the big new intrusion into your freedom?

Either you have to live completely without that stuff or you're on the government's radar.

March 16th, 2010, 07:57 AM
Total Recall.

Get you ass to Maahrs.