Monday, May 13, 2013

Immigration and Databases

I have rather mixed feelings on the subject of immigration. I am strongly in favor of legal immigration, and think it should be easier for qualified immigrants to enter the US; at the same time, I am strongly opposed to illegal immigration. My opposition to illegal immigration is, as I see it, a part of my support for expanded legal immigration; if the US has too many immigrants now (an arguable point that depends on the question "How many should we have?" – something we as a country have not even debated, much less defined) then that diminishes the number we can allow in legally. And, frankly, I’d rather have immigrants who start off respecting the laws of their new home, therefore I'd rather have more legals and fewer illegals.

(Note: If you read this blog, you know by now that I don't worry about PC terminology: 'illegal' is a perfectly good description, as far as I'm concerned, for a person who is in the country illegally).

With all that said, I can’t see any feasible way that all the illegals currently present can be deported in anything approximating a humane manner, even assuming that that was the best thing to do. So I’m perfectly willing to accept some form of amnesty (short of full citizenship) for those already in the country – as long as it is preceded by a thorough securing of the border.

A major part of securing the border is, in my opinion, making it impossible (or as nearly impossible as can be) to get a job if you are in the country illegally, backed by extremely strong penalties for employers who hire illegals. It’s a workable supply-side solution: if there are no jobs, then there’s no reason to sneak across the border.

Therefore, I don’t have any objection to the intent of this:
The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system. 
Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID. 
Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo. 
This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants.
Such a database would give the government immense power over each of us, because they would know everything about us. 'Knowledge is power' and all that.

It would begin, of course, as described above, with only our social security number and age tied to the biometric data. But how long would it be before your full job history, already tied to the SS#, is added to the database? And your police records would be added the next time there is a terrorism outrage or a mass shooting. And soon your taxes, your school records, your voting history, your donations to political causes, what books you checked out of the library, your marriages and divorces … and everything else.

I don’t think of myself as a paranoid, but in light of the IRS scandal, I’m not in much of a mood to trust the government to not use every tool it has to quash opposition. And this would be quite a tool.

If you are a Democrat, and are thinking right now: “Barack Obama would never use such a database against his political enemies” (even after the IRS revelations), then consider that sometime in the relatively near future, perhaps as soon as 2017, there will be a Republican president. Do you want that power to be in the hands of Ted Cruz, or Bobby Jindal, or Mike Huckabee?

Perhaps I'm overreacting. But I think this is just a realistic assessment of the way government power has steadily advanced for almost a century now.

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