Monday, April 19, 2010

Biometrics Still Likely to be Part of Reform

I wrote several months ago about how biometrics (methods for uniquely recognizing humans based upon one or more intrinsic physical traits) is part of the push for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This is UNACCEPTABLE and is likely to only lead many who are for civil liberties to oppose immigration reform only on this point. Those of you who are interested in Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) not only must oppose militarization of the border, but also this form of national identification. (I personally don't have hope for any acceptable CIR going through, but I am concerned about the ramifications for migrants the fight over this bill will have).
While details are still sketchy, Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have proposed that the new Social Security card be swiped by employers through a machine to match a fingerprint or some other personal biometric feature against data stored on computers. Those who refuse to cooperate or otherwise knowingly hire unauthorized workers would face fines and even prison (Source).
As some of you know, local libertarian and constitutionalist groups and individuals have publicly opposed Pearce's SB 1070, the anti-immigrant bill, because the bill allows the federal government access to personal, county, or state information. Mark Lerner of Consitutional Alliance wrote:
This language in no way prohibits law enforcement from sharing the personal information of citizens of the United States during the "vetting process". I contend that the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has made their intentions clear. They want the personal information of Americans either through direct electronic access or indirect access. I appreciate that currently the "federal government" has much of our personal information already. The fact is "that information" is spread out over many departments and agencies of the federal government. DHS wants a more centralized system and thus we have witnessed the Real ID Act 2005 and now the PASS ID Act.

Because the standards for both Real ID and PASS ID are the adopted standards of two international organizations, AAMVA and the ICAO, the driver's license would become not simply a national ID but more accurately and international ID. International standards are only used to facilitate global information sharing (Source).
Many people oppose Real ID and other such things, and especially when biometrics becomes involved. We know that there are many problems with E-Verify, but will adding facial recognition or fingerprinting make things better or worse? Aside from any errors involved, it is clearly an invasion of privacy. As a blogger writes regarding CIR, "A great concern of mine (and a multitude of others) is the inevitable intrusions upon the liberties of the American people. Just look at the name: Biometric National ID card. What does this tell us? It will enable the government to scrutinize our every transaction and move. It will be a 24/7 GPS (Source)."

A lot of these folks are not ones who care about the situation immigrants are or would be facing (many blatantly oppose "amnesty"). They are concerned for their own interests. They come out against an anti-immigration bill (many probably reluctantly) because of the Real ID issues, and they'll come out against CIR because of the same.

My friends at have discussed the possibilities of contradictions among right-wingers:
We also need to be thinking about our opposition and our potential allies. At the Tempe Tea Party rally libertarians stood outside flyering against Pearce's law. This continues to be an important breach in the front of white supremacy and we must recognize it. We must continue to engage it and we must continue to push on that contradiction so that others are emboldened to break with the racist trajectory (Source).
I agree with this, but I am not so optimistic that this shows a complete break with the racist trajectory, as we will see when biometrics is included in CIR. In fact, it is likely that the biometrics will provide a stronger argument against CIR across the political spectrum. I even wonder whether it is meant to turn even more people against so-called amnesty for migrants.

Here's an interesting analysis I quoted in my previous blog post on biometrics:
This national ID move is either a labrynthine [sic] charade designed to give Obama and the Democrats a way out of their commitment to immigration reform-even the conservative, punitive “get tough approach of CIR”- or a very dangerous move to continue the Bush surveillance project under the guise “immigration reform.”
I would add my suspicion that these senators would be or are getting kick-backs from the companies that would provide the technology/information systems that would be involved (Lockheed and Boeing perhaps?), but I believe the overwhelming reason is that the federal government wants to build up the police state by having more centralized information available to different law enforcement agencies. After all, we can see that with Homeland Security's "Secure Communities".

Since things like this is really decided upon by the legislature, the people have little input. There just might be enough support among them to pass CIR with biometrics if this is true:
In explaining the only current bipartisan reform proposal, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has called such a high-tech Social Security card "a linchpin" in efforts to win support in Congress for fixing an immigration enforcement system that many agree is broken. Immigrant advocates are pushing for action on immigration reform this year, and the Obama administration has expressed support, though many analysts doubt the current political climate is conducive (Source).
Still, what will the Tea-Party-like response to "Obamacare" be to CIR? Surely the racists will grab hold of the tea-party and organize it against CIR, and obviously not just because of the privacy issue. I argue that yes, we should push on the contradictions, like Phoenix Insurgent has written, but while we may be able to divide them on Pearce's bill, they will unite against CIR. I believe that while yes, people are motivated by self-interest, if we continue to do nothing but legitimize it by using it where we can against racist organizing, when can we actually get less people to be motivated the self-interest that is overwhelmingly funneled towards racist and divisive ends? At what point do we challenge people's racism as well? After all, much of their racism is based on fear and lies that people in power feed them.

Read my older blog post on biometrics here

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