Stay Off the Immigration Reform Bandwagon
By: Kaye Beach
The current offering of immigration reform passed by the U.S. Senate this summer has plenty of detractors but it also has its share of boosters and they are doing their best to get us on the bandwagon.
S.744, the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act," features legalization and a "path to citizenship" for unauthorized immigrants already present in the country, increased border and internal enforcement, and changes to the visa system.
Whether or not this bill will make it to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives is debatable, but proponents of the measure are giving it their all and outspending opponents 3 to 1 and there is a PR war in progress.
Did you catch this recent headline from the Oklahoman?: Poll Shows Wide Support in Oklahoma for Immigration Reform Package. "Four out of five Oklahomans express support for package similar to the one approved by the U.S. Senate," writes journalist Chris Casteel who goes on to note that at the same time, 39% of those polled also say they would deport all illegals. That does not compute. Since the comprehensive immigration reform bill, S.744, prominently features legalization of the immigrants already present in the U.S., not deportation, these poll numbers don't quite add up.
The organization responsible for commissioning the poll had no trouble extracting meaning from the poll despite the incongruent numbers. "The strong support for meaningful immigration reform in Oklahoma reflects the broad consensus that we are seeing across the country," said John Feinblatt, chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy.
Yes, there is strong support for immigration reform, at least conceptually, but the leading question was do they support immigration reform similar to S.744. Since a sizeable chunk of the respondents have no idea what the Senate immigration reform bill is really about, I think the real value in this poll is to give headline skimmers the impression that most of their peers are wild about the current immigration reform bill so that they will jump on board the bandwagon. I have taken a peek at this 844 page snoozer-doozy of an immigration reform bill and I would faster go overboard than jump on this "immigration reform" bandwagon. Most of the public debate over immigration reform centers on border security and a path to citizenship, but it is the plans for "interior enforcement" that we should be focusing on.
One way that we differentiate between a right and a privilege is that a right does not require permission in order to exercise it, but S.744 requires every worker or potential worker (citizen and non-citizen alike) to get permission from the Department of Homeland Security before they can take employment. Employers would be burdened with the new responsibility (and costs!) for collecting, processing and submitting information on prospective employees via an electronic employment verification system to the Department of Homeland Security for approval.
How many U.S. citizens will lose job opportunities due to glitches or errors in the complicated nationwide electronic work permission system proposed by S.744? The recent ObamaCare online exchange fiasco does not inspire confidence but let's be generous and suppose that electronic worker permission system is 99% accurate. A 1% error rate means that 1.5 million U.S. citizens could be unfairly blocked from getting a job. And that could be a nightmare because due process is yet another right compromised by this immigration reform bill. Under S.744 an employee that fails to gain authorization can keep their job during the administrative appeals process, but once this process is over, that employee must be fired. After that they are on their own and S.744 makes no provision for damages, legal fees, lost wages or reinstatement.
Under S.744 you are required to trade your most personal information, your biometrics, for the privilege of working. Biometric means measurement of the body. It is technology used to measure aspects of a person then transform that data into digital code for the purpose of identification. Fingerprints, iris scan and DNA are all examples of biometrics. The work authorization plan proposed by S.744 requires a national biometric identification plan.
Americans have always been dead set against any form of a national ID, understanding that such a system creates a dangerous power differential between the people and their government. We believe that government must be based on the "consent of the governed" but universal identification schemes change those dynamics forcing citizens to have to obtain the consent of the government in order to exercise basic rights.
Through the Real ID Act of 2005, the federal government has worked to ensure that state DMV's created biometric identification databases with the goal of nationwide and ultimately, international interoperability. S.744 will finally make Real ID fully operational as a national biometric identification system and the next step, going global, will be easy since international standards for biometric data are foundational for all U.S. government issued photo-biometric identity documents.
Additionally, S.744 invites the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to add other biometrics as he or she deems fit and the bill also requires that a high tech biometric and Radio Frequency Identification chipped social security card for everyone be considered.
The final egregious aspect of S.744 that I am going to address is that it removes existing state law that provides protections for religious freedom. Religious freedom or "freedom of conscience" as Thomas Jefferson described it, is another foundational right that S.744 would trample. The bill makes no allowance for the laws that exist in a number of states that respect those whose faith precludes them from providing either a photographic image or a biometric on their state issued driver's license or ID card. These individuals would be forced to choose between honoring their religious beliefs and earning a living.
With battles raging over the unprecedented intrusion of the federal government into sectors of our society where it does not belong, such as education and healthcare, I have to question the sanity of anyone who would entertain the notion of relinquishing more of our rights and control by giving the government more power for any reason.
If S.744 or similar so-called immigration reform measures become law, it would mean a bigger, more powerful federal government and more intrusion and control over our lives. The debate need go no further than this. This is not the kind of immigration reform we need.
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