This is another LLI presentation. I was not as happy with this talk as with some of the others I have given.I am not sure where I stand on this issue.
Most discussion about a national identity card has focused on the issue of terrorism rather than that of immigration, but much of the logic is the same.
Support for a national ID card was relatively low until 911. Right after 911 support jumped to 70%. By 2004 56% of Americans still thought it was a good idea.
Details of proposals for such card vary, questions include
- Would the card be compulsory or non compulsory?
Under non compulsory proposals you don't have to have one, but life is much easier if you do.
- When would you have to present the card?
Any time a government official asks for it.
To get a job or enroll in school.
To receive social services
Or only for certain activities, like boarding an airplane.
- How much information would be included on the card?
Smart card technology makes it possible to contain a wealth of information.
If we wish to halt illegal immigration then there must be some way to identify who is here legally and who is not.
- Currently the most often used IDs in this country are birth certificates, Social Security Numbers and Driver's Licenses.
- Unfortunately it is relatively easy to obtain fraudulent copies of these documents and there is a thriving black market in them.
- The Driver's License is the closest thing we have to a universal ID.
- 18 of the 19 911 hijackers had either state issued drivers license or ID cards, or counterfeit driver's licenses.
To be effective a national ID card
- would have to be tamper proof,
- would need to include a digital picture and some biometric, such as a finger print or retina scan,
- would need to be machine readable
- and need to be backed up by a data base that could verify that the card was issued to the holder.
It would also be necessary to get a handle on so called "breeder documents", particularly the birth certificate. If I have a birth certificate I can get a Social Security Number and a driver's license.
Supporters of a national ID card point out over 100 countries have either compulsory or non compulsory cards, including
Opposition to the card centers on three points.
First, it would be prohibitively expensive.
- The Real ID Act, which was passed by congress in 2005, incorporates many of the elements of a national ID card by standardizing state driver's licenses.
- A September 2006 analysis by the a number of state organizations estimated that the bill will cost 11 billion dollars to implement and impose unrealistic burdens on the states.
Second, it will not work.
- Witness the rapidly changing technology to prevent counterfeiting and credit card fraud.
- Those seeking to subvert the system quickly catch up with any new innovation. Opponents point out that many of the nations who currently have national IDs still have terrorist attacks.
Finally the most often heard opposition to such a card revolves around the invasion of privacy.
- Even if usage of the card is initially limited the temptation to use the card for other purposes is too great.
We could use it to track
- Critics point out that the Social Security Number, which was initially intended solely to track earnings for the propose of calculating Social Security payments, has become a defacto universal ID.
If I have your Social Security Number I can just about find our what you had for breakfast.
Many argue that the data base needed to support a National ID card would be susceptible to hackers and increase the likelihood of fraud and identity theft.