NATIONAL ID CARDS A CONTROL MEASURE?

Last Wednesday, President Obama said that he wanted to start work on immigration reform, supporting the measures of a group of Democratic senators, who on April 29th, presented their framework for comprehensive immigration reform. One of the major components of the draft bill was the creation of a compulsory national system of biometric identity cards. The call for national biometric identity cards in the U.S. appears to be part of a disturbing trend worldwide to a use of compulsory national biometric identity cards and biometric national passports that can be used as identity cards Historically, national identity cards have been used by totalitarian regimes and police states as a way to control and monitor their citizens. The push for the use of national biometric identity cards worldwide is occurring at the same time that there has been an increase in the use of intrusive and historically illegal control measures, worldwide, including in the United States. The inclusion of a proviso for national biometric identity cards was in the draft of the immigration bill presented by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY. The reason for biometric based national ID cards has been described by Senator Schumer as being “necessary to significantly diminish the job magnet that attracts illegal aliens to the United States and to “provide certainty and simplicity for employers.” (1) However, the issuance of biometric national ID cards won’t influence the reasons that illegal immigrants are coming into and staying in the U.S. Nor are they needed for potential employers to ascertain whether they are legal immigrants. One of the reasons why illegal immigrants are coming into the United States from Mexico illegally is because they are being allowed to due to the catch and release program which allowed for illegal immigrants to stay in this country without being deported. One of the other primary reasons that illegal immigrants have come to the U.S. is because of the amnesty program being recommended for illegal immigrants to be allowed to stay legally, thereby giving legal status to those who illegally broke U.S. law in entering the U.S. With no penalties in crossing the border illegally and possible actions to grant these illegal immigrants amnesty and the right to stay in the U.S. legally, thereby countermanding US immigration laws and serving to benefit those who enter illegally. The problem of large numbers of illegal aliens being in this country is not because of the inability to check the legal status of those they seek to hire, as Schumaker infers, but the lack of enforcement of US immigration policy by the U.S. government itself. Just as there has been little to no enforcement of U.S. immigration laws at the U.S. border with the catch and release program, so too has there been little enforcement of the laws that seek to restrict illegal immigrants from getting jobs in the U.S. by punishing those employers who knowingly and deliberately hire and retain illegal immigrants in their workplace. The problem with hiring illegal immigrants is in many cases, not a matter of the employer not knowing whether or not the individual is a legal immigrant, as there are already in place adequate means to check, but the enforcement of laws that prohibit employers from hiring illegal immigrants. This enforcement has decreased not increased by the U.S. government, thus making the issue of whether someone has biometric national ID cards or not irrelevant, since those employers who do even knowingly hire illegal aliens are increasingly not being stopped by the U.S. government.

(2)

Clearly the U.S. has had a much more effective immigration policy in the past than it has now. It is estimated that over 11 million illegal immigrants currently reside in the U.S. The immigration policy was more effective not because of having biometric national ID cards but because immigration laws were coherent and useful and applied, both with enforcement at the border itself and enforcement of laws involving those who hire illegal immigrants deliberately and knowingly. Therefore, the national biometric ID card being pushed in the U.S. would not be useful for the purposes that it is being described as the reason for the use of biometric national ID cards. Disturbingly, the use of biometric national ID cards is being pushed worldwide and like the U.S., it appears in many cases that the biometric national ID cards will not serve to do what the government officials claim is the purpose for the biometric national ID cards or passports. In Germany, biometric national ID cards are being implemented this year. In the EU biometric national ID cards are being touted and biometric ID national passports implemented. Last year, India implemented biometric national ID cards.

(3)

In Britain, British government officials have set up a biometric national identity card program to regulate emigration into Britain. However, although a biometric ID card program has been implemented in Britain, and people are being issued biometric national ID cards, no one in Britain has the capacity to read the biometric national ID cards. As admitted by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in Britain in 2009, not one police station, border and immigration point or job center has a machine that can read the card’s biometric chips. British Home Office officials confirmed that there is no firm timetable for the introduction of card readers. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said, “"Once again ministers have shown that the ID card project is absolutely farcical. What is the point of spending billions of pounds on cards that can’t be read in the UK?”

(4)

The UK is not the only place where there is problem with the use of the biometric national ID cards or passports. In Bulgaria, the government is experiencing problems with the national biometric ID cards and passports that are being issued for Bulgarians.

The Bulgarian government is having trouble with the German company Siemens software that is creating the national biometric ID cards. Since March 29th, when the software was first introduced, those who wish to renew their passports for biometric passports and biometric national ID cards, have found it impossible to do so, because of a problem with the cards and with Siemens.

(5)

As well, it appears that the German company Siemens, has control of the issuance of the cards themselves, and it was reported that Siemens has not transferred the technology for both the issuance of the cards and the reading of the biometric national ID cards and passports to the Bulgarian government. It is all being handled directly from the German company Siemens. (6) Siemens is one of the German companies involved in biometric monitoring and identification systems and one of the major ones. However, it is not the only one and what is occurring now is a situation where German companies predominate in this technology and are the ones who are directly involved in creating the biometric national ID and passports and issuing them as is the case with Siemens and the Bulgarian biometric national ID cards. Siemens has been involved in creating the system for capturing and verifying the biometric data for other countries, including Switzerland.

(7)
In the case of Lithuania, the German security document manufacturer Bundesdruckerei International Services was selected to work on behalf of Lithuania’s Ministry of Interior to develop an e-sticker for biometric passports. (8) It appears that German companies are acting in the stead of national governments in different countries to set up, develop and issue other country’s biometric national ID cards and passports. The question is why are German companies being allowed to do this and why isn’t it being done solely by the national governments themselves? With the issuance of biometric national ID cards, there is the issue of having control of people and their personal information. There is also the issue of why these biometric national ID cards need to be issued. In the case of the reasons given by Senator Schumer in the U.S., the reasons stated for a need for biometric national ID cards are invalid and wouldn’t help the problem that he describes. In the case of Britain, biometric national ID cards have been issued to immigrants in Britain, however, no one in Britain and as acknowledged by members of the government, have the equipment to read the cards, so why have they been issued if as noted no one in Britain is reading them? German companies appear to be the ones who are gathering and inputting the data needed for the biometric national ID cards and passports. In Bulgaria, as reported, the Bulgarian government doesn’t even have the technology for issuing and reading the cards from Siemens. The problems with the cards and the cards themselves are being handled directly from Germany and Siemens. At the same time, the government of Germany is tightening control measures in Germany with their plans to issue biometric national ID cards in Germany later this year. With countries such as Britain and Bulgarian not directly issuing and deciphering their own biometric national ID cards and passports, it is clearly problematic for foreign companies in foreign countries to have that kind of data and that kind of control over the information that is being gathered and monitored. There is not only the question of why governments are seeking this kind of control when it is not needed, or even being used for the reasons they are seeking it, there is the question of why German companies are the ones who have control of the process and information contained in these cards. Sources:

1. http://schumer.senate.gov/new_website/record.cfm?id=314990 2. http://www.thelegalblotter.com/time-to-stop-the-rush-for-amnestyimmigration-reform 3. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6710764.ece 4. http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article5675223.ec e 5. http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=114952 6. http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=115230 7. http://www.securitydocumentworld.com/public/news_all.cfm? &m1=c_10&m2=c_4&m3=e_0&m4=e_0&subItemID=818 8. http://www.securitydocumentworld.com/public/news_all.cfm? &m1=c_10&m2=c_4&m3=e_0&m4=e_0&subItemID=835

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