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.


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