The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; 

Immigration Reform Must Respect Civil Liberties, Says ACLU

Proposed National ID Cannot Be Included


Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have outlined a
framework for immigration reform that they shared with the president
last week, according to news reports. The senators have built the
framework around four main issues: mandatory biometric Social Security
cards for all Americans; ramping up border and interior immigration
enforcement; redesigning a system for temporary workers; and creating a
tougher plan for legalizing the immigration status of those already in
America. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomes thoughtful reform
of America's immigration system but insists it cannot be at the expense
of cherished fundamental liberties and privacy protections.

cannot trade away our most essential civil liberties while attempting
to fix our broken immigration system," said Laura W. Murphy, Director
of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "A biometric national ID
system or a massive employment verification system would essentially
require every American to obtain a 'permission slip' in order to work.
Like the social security number, use of a National ID would quickly
spread to other areas like travel, voting, financial transactions and
other cherished rights."
senators' proposal of a new and expensive electronic employment
verification system and biometric worker identification plan is a
thinly-disguised strategy to implement a national ID. National ID
systems and electronic employment verification (EEV) systems pose a
serious threat to Americans' privacy. Not only do they force Americans
to seek government approval before they can work, they also form the
backbone of a system to create electronic profiles of every American.
When linked to other databases, a biometric-based national ID system
will provide the federal government with information about people's
employment and travel activities. Such a national ID system could
eventually be used for other purposes, including checking whether a
person can vote. Electronic employment verification systems can also
increase discrimination against authorized workers based on race,
language and national origin.
the senators claim there would be no creation of a national database,
it would be impossible to run a verifiable biometric system without a
database and in fact no government identity system has ever been
created without one. A mandatory national biometric ID would impose new
burdens on our country's authorized workers, risk our privacy and
would, in the end, not prevent the hiring of cheap labor from
undocumented workers.
"It is unacceptable to force every American worker to be fingerprinted
in order to work," said Christopher Calabrese, Legislative Counsel for
the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The bureaucracy created to run
this system will be a combination of the worst features of TSA and the
DMV. The entirety of the American workforce will be burdened with
implementing a system that will do little to stop the use of false
documents and corrupt employers who will continue to use 'off the book'
workers. Immigration reform is necessary and overdue but, without
adhering to our constitutional values, our government runs the risk of
making things worse for every American."
addition to objecting to a mandatory biometric ID system, the ACLU
calls for reforms that correct the serious due process problems
currently plaguing the immigration detention system and which guarantee
the humane and constitutional treatment of all individuals within our
ACLU urges Congress to fix the endemic due process failures present in
our immigration system," said Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel.
"The needless and prolonged detention of immigrants must be halted
immediately. Detaining immigrants who pose no risk or danger for
prolonged periods of time, often without any end in sight or a way to
challenge their detention, flies in the face of our constitutional
values. Congress needs to ensure that any immigration plan is subject
to vigorous judicial oversight by our federal courts."
To see the ACLU's statement on the necessary elements of meaningful immigration reform, see:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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