A national ID card in 2010?

A new attempt at immigration reform may require a biometric ID card for all working Americans. Privacy advocates aren't pleased

Fingerprint national ID
(Image credit: Corbis)

National identification cards, long feared by privacy advocates, may soon become mandatory for American workers. In a bipartisan effort to curb the hiring of illegal immigrants, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have proposed legislation that, if passed, will require all working Americans to carry biometric ID cards containing fingerprint records and other personal information. Sen. Schumer calls the measure "the nub of solving the immigration dilemma." But Chris Calabrese, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, warns the cards would be a "massive invasion" of privacy. Are national ID cards the solution to our immigration woes — or an unacceptable intrusion into our lives? (Watch Ron Paul chime in on the national ID card debate)

This is an affront to our freedom as Americans: Not only would this "ghastly" plan be a frightening invasion of privacy, says Alex Nowarsteh in Fox News, it "would treat every American like a criminal by requiring them to enter their most intimate and personal data into a government database." This is a "naked government power grab," and it must be stopped.

"5 reasons why America should steer clear of a national ID card"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The privacy concerns make no sense: If we're ever going to improve our national security, the "infuriatingly nonsensical" hand-wringing over privacy needs to end, says Donn Tennant in IT Business Edge. Many non-criminals, including members of the armed forces and "most public servants," are already fingerprinted, and their liberty remains intact. And having to show "a national ID with your biometric information" at the airport is no more "loathsome" than showing a driver's license.

"National ID cards: Pointless privacy argument is getting old"

Issuing every American an ID card would be wasteful: Instituting the national ID cards now, says Megan Carpentier in Washington Examiner, would add "hundreds of millions of dollars" to the federal debt, and impose painful costs on employers. All that just to keep "less than 4 percent of the total population of the United States from accessing the job market. Apparently, cost-benefit analyses aren’t the rage on Capitol Hill these days."

"The government would like to see your papers, please"

It won't pass, anyway: Privacy advocates aren't the only ones who don't want this bill to pass, says Jack Cafferty in CNN. The aim of worker ID cards is to make it harder for employers to hire illegal immigrants. "If you think the corporations that make huge profits on the backs of an illegal alien workforce are going to let something like that get through, think again."

"Are worker ID cards a good idea?"

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.