Under consideration by Congress: one more crack at immigration reform — and one more piece of documentation for you to keep track of.
Spurred by reports that the E-Verify system has glaring holes (see ), lawmakers are looking at bills that would require all workers to produce ID cards that verify eligibility to work in the United States. The cards would have photo IDs and some sort of biometric info, such as a fingerprint.
Some particulars of the bill:
- People currently employed wouldn’t be required to obtain a card unless they switch jobs.
- Requirements would start with designated industries that rely heavily on illegal immigrants in their work force.
- Enforcement eventually would be phased in for all worker in all industries.
But it would eventually reach tens of millions of Americans, including citizens and immigrants, who are holding jobs legally.
What chance does such a bill have to become law? Congress is hearing a bunch of complaints that could become insurmountable obstacles:
- Cost and inconvenience. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has raised concerns about the costs to employers and potential difficulty checking the biometrics. Card scanners would cost employers between $700 and $800. The bill’s proponents say small employers could be exempt from purchasing scanners and instead send applicants to government offices.
- The “creepy factor.” Getting Americans to latch on to the idea of a scannable ID card is a tough sell. Privacy advocates won’t buy in.
- Amnesty. Some in Congress want to tie approval of a card system to amnesty for illegal workers, who would be required to turn themselves in an obtain an ID card. The word “amnesty” tends to lead to a loss of support for any type of immigration bill.
Loss of privacy is also a primary concern of those who fear the card will develop into a national identification system able to track Americans.
“We’re not only talking about fingerprinting every American, treating ordinary Americans like criminals in order to work. We’re also talking about a card that would quickly spread from work to voting to travel to pretty much every aspect of American life that requires identification,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.