“Maybe we should just brand all the babies.” With this joke, Ronald Reagan swatted down a national identification card — or an enhanced Social Security card — proposed by his attorney general in 1981. For more than three decades since, attempts to implement the proposal have all met with failure, but now national ID is back, and it’s worse than ever.
As in 1981, immigration restrictions have provided the justification. In the name of stopping illegal employment, proposals floated by a bipartisan group of senators would create both a physical national ID — an “enhanced” Social Security card — and even more menacingly an Internet-based, electronic ID that could be accessed anywhere to confirm identity.
After the election, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is leading the Democrats immigration push, told NBC News that one of his top priorities was to “make sure that there is a non-forgeable document” for all employees. After years of pushing for one, Sen. Schumer may have broken through GOP opposition. “We’re going to have to come up with something, but the principle we all agree on,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said this week.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Politico that he was for “a super Social Security card that would have some sort of biometric things like a fingerprint in it.” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)—also, a longtime supporter of national ID — agrees. “You’ll have documents that can’t be faked,” he told CBS News after the election.
This path was the inevitable consequence of America’s broken immigration system. First, Congress made it prohibitively difficult to come. Then, unable to enforce that, they conscripted businessmen to police their workforce for them. Now that document fraud has ruined this scheme, the government wants even more surveillance.
But national ID is more than just a card with a name and number — it is a system. It must contain data collected by the government on every legal worker that compares that name and number to you. This means the federal government must start collecting biometric information: pictures, fingerprints, retina scans, DNA, and whatever else is needed to make the system work.
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