Jewish World Review
June 22, 2010
/ 10 Tamuz 5770
Ripe for fraud and abuse
Even by the standards of La-La Land, the latest ploy by Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein is utterly hypocritical! They just wrote the Justice Department demanding an investigation of the new Arizona law making it a crime to not carry immigration papers. Having cops question criminal suspects about their immigration status is "polarizing and hurtful," the senators said.
As opposed, I guess, to chasing illegal immigrants with tanks, which is what Boxer wanted to do in the early 1990s when Californians were freaking out over immigration. Boxer inserted language into an appropriations bill requiring the Pentagon to mobilize the National Guard and station it on the border.
And Feinstein — no racial profiling for her, no sir. She wanted all Americans to have to carry immigration papers, in the form of a national ID card that would double as a work permit. Behold the new paradigm of American liberalism: Trashing civil liberties is fine, as long as you do it in an equal-opportunity way.
Immigrant-bashing has always been a bipartisan sport. And while the foolish law pushed through by Arizona Republicans on a mostly party-line vote has been getting most of the ink lately, Democrats are preparing their own — and much worse — bully-boy solution to the immigration problem.
It's the same one championed nearly two decades ago by Feinstein: a national ID card and work permit, now disguised as a "biometric Social Security card." A proposal signed by half a dozen senior Democratic senators (Majority Leader Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, Bob Menendez, Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin and, of course, Feinstein) calls for cards carrying not only your photo but a computer chip loaded with your fingerprints, retinal scan or some other "unique biometric identifier for the authorized card-bearer."
The Democrats solemnly promise the card "will only serve as evidence of lawful work-authorization" and will never "be permitted to serve — or shall be required to be shown — as proof of citizenship or lawful immigration status." And perhaps that will be true, in Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone." Here on the actual Earth as we know it, the card's mission creep will begin within months.
Social Security numbers, when they started out in the 1930s, were merely for keeping track of your pension earnings. Now you can't do virtually anything, from opening a bank account to getting a telephone installed, without one. The same will be true of the new cards, especially since their computer chips can be loaded with all kinds of information that government agencies will find useful in tracing their enemies.
A good bet for the first one: the Department of Homeland Security, which for the past two years has been clamoring for an ID card that will enable it to keep track of how much allergy medicine you're buying — your hay fever be damned, you could be using those pills to cook up meth. From there, why not welfare fraud and deadbeat dads? Why not gun nuts and polygamists (in a Hillary Clinton White House) or flag-burners and sodomites (in a Pat Buchanan White House)? And if you think deputy sheriffs won't be checking the cards of everybody stopped for spitting on a Phoenix sidewalk, you don't know Joe Arpaio.
But let's indulge Sen. Feinstein and her colleagues in their "we're the government and we're here to help" fantasies for a moment. Suppose the card is used exactly as they promise: to verify your right to work. When you start a new job, your boss swipes the ID card through a little credit-card-like machine, and it beeps its approval . .. except when it doesn't. Your job will be at the mercy of every computer glitch, every misspelled name, every typing mistake by a data-entry clerk who had a martini with Friday lunch.
The Social Security Administration admits its data base has a 4.1-percent error rate. In an economy where 55 million people start new jobs every year, that translates to 2.2 million Americans tossed into a nightmarish bureaucratic netherworld of appeals and hearings that will likely combine the efficiency of the post office with the amiability of airport-security screeners.
And that doesn't even take into account the incredible amount of time and energy every single working American will have to spend proving who they are to get an ID card in the first place. Simply giving the card to everybody who's already in the Social Security database would merely transfer all the existing fraud and error over to the new system. So everybody's got to reapply, producing either a birth certificate or valid immigration papers.
A 2007 Homeland Security study estimated collecting those documents and standing in line to have them verified would take Americans almost 270 million man-hours in the first decade. And that's an estimate from an agency that likes the idea of the card. Arizona, here we come.
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Glenn Garvin is a columnist for the Miami Herald
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