Immigration Debate: Cue National ID Scary Music

I am so tired of the same ancient, wrinkled BS arguments against every single inch of progress we try to make as a nation. Gun debate? No problem, that one's easy, just cue up the argument that they're "trying to take away your guns." Health care reform? Yeah, "government takeover of health care."

Now we get the usual baloney argument over immigration reform. OH NOES, we'll have to have a national identification card!!! This time, it's coming from Democrats who have concerns about E-Verify.

New York Times:

Driver’s license photographs and biographic information of most Americans would be accessible through an expanded Department of Homeland Security nationwide computer network if the immigration legislation pending before the Senate becomes law.

The proposed expansion is part of an effort to crack down on illegal immigration by requiring all employers to confirm the identity and legal status of any new workers by tapping into a Homeland Security Department system called E-Verify, which is now used voluntarily by about 7 percent of employers in the United States.

But the proposal already faces objections from some civil liberties lawyers and certain members of Congress, who worry about the potential for another sprawling data network that could ultimately be the equivalent of a national ID system.

“Over time, this could become a single, national, searchable database of vital biographic information and photographs of nearly every American,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. “I want to make sure we embed privacy protections in the system, both in how it is built and administered so that data cannot easily be stolen, and also that the information is only used for legitimate purposes.”

We can have a debate about E-Verify. There are some aspects to it I don't like, and I don't see enough balancing to discriminate against workers who are already working for next to nothing. We can have a debate about what data identification cards should have, and how often it should be updated. But please, do not drag out the National ID card debate against it. Please.

Why? Because we already have this system. It's called RealID, it was passed in 2005, and has been implemented by half the states and the rest of the states have gotten waivers or objected. Most of the objecting states are the ones most anxious, however, to pass Voter ID laws. (Go figure.) It was the brainchild of James Sensenbrenner, if that tells you anything.

While everyone deals in abstract fears, I can attest to the very real impact of RealID as it is currently structured. It does real harm to women, because women are the ones who change their names. It sent me into a bureaucratic hell from which I would not have emerged, but for the kind woman at the Social Security office who ultimately recognized my problem and accepted a second, third and fourth certified form of identification to free me forever from my maiden name.

I'm still ticked off about it, not because I had to prove my identity, but because when I presented four different certified documents as proof, they weren't the right ones as defined by that stupid law. The verification process is insanely stupid, particularly if you've ever been married, divorced, or just changed your name legally. But I repeat -- It's not the idea of proving my identity that bothers me, nor does it bother me to have that identity in a database. It does, however, bother the hell out of me that they made it so difficult for me to prove.

Let's see, the last time we had a big debate over a national identification card was when Bill Clinton tried to pass a form of universal health care, and the right wing bugabooed it with the fearmongering over a national ID card. (That was just a few years before they championed the RealID act.)

Along with the scary "government will take away your right to a doctor" ads, the next biggest issue was that everyone would carry a national identification card. Horrors. Because a social security card isn't a similar card, obtained after identity and legal citizenship are proven adequately to government agents?

It might be time to live in the real world here: Either we want immigration reform or we don't. One way or the other, immigrants who seek legal status will be carrying some form of identification card. What makes them different from the rest of us, exactly? Having a national identification card is not the end of the world, provided limits are placed on how it is used. That's the key to this. National ID cards should not be required to walk the streets. They might, however, come in handy for passport applications. That would be a good thing if it speeds the process.

Let's not be adopting right-wing memes to debate immigration reform. There are a lot of other restrictions and concerns with this bill that should be addressed ahead of whether we have to actually obtain a card that we tuck away with our Social Security card until we need it.

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