Show Your Papers – But WHAT Papers?

by Diane Dimond on July 9, 2012

What's in Your Wallet?

Gentlemen, grab your wallets. Ladies, look in your billfold. See the spots there for credit cards and your driver’s license? I bet there’s room for one more card in there, right? I propose we fill it with a National ID card.

Now wait, before you decide I’m some sort of proponent for a police state take a deep breath. Hear me out.

Don’t think of it in terms of, “A tool for social control,” as the ACLU consistently calls the idea of a National ID card. Think of it this way: One little card could wipe out a whole host of expensive and needlessly complicated steps employers, civil servants, hospital emergency workers and school officials are forced to take in the quest to get a handle on illegal immigration, employment fraud and voter fraud. One card could do it all.

UK, Germany & Australia Have Nat. ID Cards

First, let’s not call it a National ID Card because that term has already become politically tinged a bright red-hot. Let’s call it an “enhanced Social Security card” as they did in 2010 in a piece of legislation that is still sitting on Capitol Hill waiting for pre-election-paralyzed members of Congress to act on it.

The small laminated card would have a chip embedded in it with your personal biometrics: your fingerprint, a scan of your iris, a digital photo of you that would render the card completely useless by others if it was lost or stolen. The information would not be stored in any database anywhere – it would remain only with you, melded into your individual card.

Your Fingerprint is a Unique Biometric

Some government agencies and major employers already issue these biometric cards to employees. Some 75 million U.S. Passports are embedded with biometric chips. As far as I know, no citizen’s world has been set topsy-turvy because they have such a card and their individual privacy remains un-invaded.

That’s really at the crux of the argument against such a universal card – this vague notion that by accepting the card we will somehow be giving up our constitutionally protected rights to liberty and privacy. Really? With surveillance cameras dotting U.S. streets and Americans freely giving up their locations via millions of Tweets and Facebook messages every day, a little card is going to strip us of something sacred?

Your Iris is a Unique Biometric

Some alarmists cry that the card will make it easier for the government to track us. Are they kidding? What do they think a Social Security number does? Or the number on our state issued driver’s license. Or the GPS signal on your cell phone. Some critics get convenient amnesia about America’s multiple and very strict civil rights laws and ominously remind that the Nazi round up of Jews was made possible by following the trail of government papers.

Please, ignore the crazy-talk. Sometimes we just overthink things. This can be simple.

What We're Doing Isn't Reliable

With one card employers would no longer have to rely on the cumbersome and unreliable E-Verify system currently in place to root out illegal job seekers. E-Verify relies on information given by the potential employee – not always truthful – and then has to be matched with Social Security and Homeland Security databases.

With one card swiped through a universally available machine an employer could instantly tell if an applicant is legal to work in the United States.

With one card we could insure those who show up to vote are actually eligible.

With one card we could lift the burden off hospital workers, school administrators and police officers who have been drafted to act as state-based immigration agents because our national leaders have so blatantly failed to pass federal immigration reform.

But WHAT Papers?

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding part of Arizona’s law allowing officers to stop anyone suspected of being in the country illegally and ask them to, “Show me your papers,” the New York Times ran an Op-Ed which asked the logical next question: “WHAT papers?” Good question!

Do you carry your birth certificate or proof of residency or social security card with you? Would a driver’s license constitute adequate proof? If you think, yes, then keep in mind in New Mexico, Washington State, Utah and maybe soon in Colorado undocumented workers can get state-issued cards allowing them to drive – yet they may still be in the United States illegally. So, again WHAT papers?

One card, embedded with the owner’s unique identifiers could satisfy that request.

SCOTUS Rules Papers Request Legal

We Americans do tend to “what if” ourselves into paralysis sometimes.

What if it costs a lot to produce such a national card? Well, it will. We’re a big country. But look at what could be saved with an “enhanced Social Security card” in terms of E-verify transactions and countless worker hours wasted on the willy-nilly patchwork quilt of checks we do now.

What if a hacker gets ahold of our biometics information? It can’t happen under the current proposal since none of it will go into a database. You’d be better off worrying about current identity theft threats which seem rampant.

What if we do nothing? Then we’ll remain in this immigration morass and have unanswered questions about our voter rolls for years to come.


Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 8:45 am

Rockland County Times Reader Sheila Dean writes:

“You just do not know what you are talking about. I respect the fact that you’re trying here, but National IDs are not what this country needs right now. They can’t respect individual privacy AT ALL. There was a little law passed in ’07 on the back of the Patriot Act called FISA where anything in your phone goes to a government database. You were out that day in class.

People’s unanimous hesitancy to make it even easier for the government to track their goings and doings is based on a little thing called consent. Consent is not something you and your ideologues have for a national ID card because 25 States banned the Real ID Act – which codified the closest thing we have to a national ID card.

That’s not “crazy talk” – that’s the law – in 25 States – with precedent for banning a national identity card.

This government has trespassed with relentless assaults on privacy. You’re asleep at the wheel. There is no real incentive to make it more convenient for a bureaucrat at schools or the DMV to find me when they abuse what they’ve got with internal fraud and general contractor corruption. I don’t owe these people a living. In fact, I wish I could fire them all because they make my life more difficult.

Don’t insult the reading public’s intelligence. You’re not for personal liberty or individual privacy. People giving up their location data is discouraged by those who advocate privacy. You’re all for it.

Unfortunately – over half of America can’t be wrong on this one and you won’t get their consent.”

Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 8:45 am

ABQ Journal Reader Cate Dixon writes:

“As a long-time member of ACLU, I hate it when I agree with you, but this is the second time I have felt compelled to express my agreement with your column. While I understand the arguments about people who may not be able to easily or conveniently acquire one of the accepted forms of identification currently available, I do not believe that, even under current circumstances it is prohibitive to require it for voting and other purposes. As a result of court cases, here in New Mexico everyone must provide ID to purchase any form of alcoholic beverage. As a 79-year-old woman I am mildly amused at having to produce my ID to buy wine. And while doing so I see others who appear to be old, poor, non-drivers, etc., who are able to show their IDs.

Having said that, I have concluded, as you have, that the answer is a national ID. I hold dual US/Israeli citizenship and so have a national Israeli ID, which not only has my picture, but much more personal information than you have proposed. And that information is maintained in some national database. However, no people are more independent than Israelis. Citizens and Permanent Residents (there are thousands and thousands) are required to carry their ID at all times. However, the police and the courts have more important matters to deal withand the penalties are light. I was amused a few years ago when Itzhak Perlman was stopped for a traffic violation in Tel Aviv and cited for not having his ID. There were outraged letters in the newspapers (the officer should have recognized so famous a citizen, etc.).

Under the law, people are supposed to report a change of address to the government, but don’t always comply. There is almost universal compulsive military service and, having served the required two or three years, one is then a reservist almost for life. One evening I answered a knock on the door of my apartment to see a woman with a clipboard that seemed to hold a long list. She was looking for reservists who could not be found because they had not reported address changes. They weren’t necessarily trying to avoid service; they just hadn’t gotten around to notifying the Ministry of the Interior.

While I think American resistance to some form of national ID is way out of proportion (just think of how any business in the country can track us down and harass us), your idea of an “enhanced Social Security card,” which does not create a central database is excellent and should be seriously considered by our Congressional representatives.

This has been way too long, but I think my personal experience supports my position.”

Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 8:46 am

ABQ Journal Reader Joseph Robinson writes;

“GREAT article I hope someone that can make this happen reads it. As long as we can keep the so called civil liberty people calmed down long enough.”

Al Petow July 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hi, Diane:

I personally carry TWO identification cards. One is my drivers’ license. It has my picture on it. The other one is my Concealed Weapons license… it has my picture on it too.

Both serve a useful purpose. The Driver’s license is to show to the police in the event I do something dumb in my car. The Concealed weapons license is in the event someone tries to do something dumb to me. If I ever have to use my weapon to protect myself the police are more than welcome to see that too. I have a third card with my picture on it from the Veterans Administration.

Coupled with those three cards plus credit cards it is uncomfortable to sit with my wallet in my back pocket. 89 year olds like me may not be able to keep their balance if they have to add another card to their collection of identification documents.

Maureen July 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Another thought-provoking article. While you state many good, practical reasons for a Nat’l ID, isn’t the bottom line this: it will be used to find illegal immigrants? Not saying I agree or disagree, but that would be the ultimate goal, yes?

Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Maureen: That could certainly be ONE of the uses of such a card. If you don’t have one and can’t prove you ever did you MIGHT be considered to be in this country illegally. But I think such a card would also drastically cut security lines at airports and government buildings, fraud at the voting booth (some will say this isn’t really a problem but I think it is) It will free hospital workers, school principals and employers from having to act as non-commissioned immigration agents – thus freezing them up to DO THEIR JOBS instead. This is a multi-purpose card, in my opinion, and long overdue. ~DD

Christine July 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin ~
The only way to stop the illegal immigration problem is to ask immigration status. The National ID will not do anything to curb the illegal immigration problem, heck we cant even call them illegals – they are undocumented workers. So once you get rid of the PC junk then it will never work. Next you will be promoting the mark of the beast – RFID implants. Plus this is a cost most states can not afford.

Diane Dimond July 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm

You, I am afraid, are looking at this ONLY as an immigration tool. I think it can serve many more purposes. And readers of this column know I never hesitate to use the term ILLEGAL aliens/workers/people.
PS> This would be a NATIONAL ID card so states would not bear the burden under the plan sitting in Congress ~ DD

Diane Dimond July 11, 2012 at 8:13 am

DD Web Site Reader John Lancelotti writes:

“Not for me Diane. I carry a driver’s license with my picture on it. That’s ENOUGH. This country is trying to become Nazi Germany … and your suggestion doesn’t help. I’d rather put fences, tanks and military aircraft on our southern borders … that’s what we REALLY need. And then deport all illegal aliens, as we catch them.”

CLS July 13, 2012 at 1:25 am

While I understand the argument you give, in favor of such a form of ID, the idea makes me uneasy. Our government is becoming more and more invasive of privacy, as it is. For example, the Patriot Act was passed, with the excuse it would help prevent terrorism. In reality, it is a terrible violation of Civil Rights.

While a national ID seems like a nice idea, I am less concerned about undocumented workers than I am about the deteriorating freedom and privacy of this particular country’s citizens. Something about the card doesn’t settle well with me.

Daniel Freysinger July 15, 2012 at 3:27 am

Though a federal ID sounds like a good idea, it opens up far too many possibilites for abuse. Every time you swipe your id, a record is created in a database. The history of those swipes can be used to build a personal history. We live in a society where being the wrong religion makes you a terrorism suspect. I prefer to be able to maintain anonymity if I choose.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: