Democrats Push for National ID

At least since 9/11, the Democrats have, if anything, been even worse than the Republicans in their push for a national ID. I recall the Bush administration, very early on, dismissing this totalitarian idea, although Bush soon enough signed the Real ID Act into law, with the support of hawkish and anti-immigration conservatives. But the establishment left is also a major threat on this front, and Democrats traditionally get a pass on civil liberties issues, whereas under Republicans there is more populist criticism of surveillance, police powers and the like.

Consider the Orwellian program being proposed by the Democratic leadership as part of “immigration reform.” Alexander Bolton writes:

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure. The proposal is one of the biggest differences between the newest immigration reform proposal and legislation crafted by late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment. It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.

Whereas the Kennedy/McCain bill was bad enough, containing both positive elements and nasty ones, this new monstrosity would force leviathan’s way even further into every employment relationship. And this actually speaks to the false dichotomy between civil and economic liberties. Both incorrectly bifurcated forms of freedom are rooted in the same set of property rights, first and foremost in one’s own person and, by extension, in the tangible property one acquires justly through homesteading, gifts and honest market transactions. If Big Brother tries to comprehensively regulate immigration, he can smash economic freedom of association. And if the state has the power to oversee our economic lives, our personal freedom will always suffer in the process.

This also is a good time to question the entire idea of the national government trying to “seal the borders,” pick winners and losers among immigrants, decide who gets all the welfare benefits of being a legal immigrant and who is not even allowed into our golden door. Invariably, when the federal government imposes its way on immigration, we get some immigrants who come in with legal sanction and quickly become dependents of the U.S. government—whereas illegals are probably not net beneficiaries of the welfare state, legal immigrants might very well be. What’s worse, plenty of people are denied peaceful and legal entry when all they want is to enter the job market, improve their situation and that of their families, and join in the American dream. Of course, despite the state’s distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, most illegal aliens are de facto invited by the American people—by those who employ them, rent to them and associate with them as part of the community and in the glorious network of voluntary exchange known as the market economy. Since conservatives often say our rights come not from the government but from God and the nature of man, it is not for the government to decide whether someone should have the right to live here or not—it is up to individuals and communities, which obviously are able to sustain a fair number of illegals. Moreover, constitutionalists in particular should question the very notion that the feds have legal authority to crack down on the border, since immigration is not an Article I, Section 8 authority of Congress. Conservatives especially should follow Reagan’s example and embrace immigration amnesty.

The violence in Arizona is a consequence of too much government meddling—the drug war that causes the inflated profits and black market conditions on which gangsters thrive, as well as the immigration controls that lead to abuse of aliens at the hands of coyotes and others. A heavy-handed government response to it and to the immigration issue generally will inevitably yield disastrous consequences for the economy, the rule of law and, most important, individual liberty. Some folks fear that Obama will be soft on the border—even as they demand that he stop taking over the economy and expanding presidential power, this is one area where they want him to be more active. But no one should fear the Democrats will do nothing about immigration. One should instead fear that they will do all too much and that we will wake up living in a police state, with the walls closing in.

See also: “Will the Democrats Save our Civil Liberties?”

Robert Higgs on the “Your Papers, Please” mentality.

William J. Watkins on the REAL ID Act.

Peter Laufer and Benjamin Powell on open vs. closed borders.

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