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Immigration reform may bring sinister new government database

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A national biometric database of virtually every adult in the United States - brought into being by immigration reform legislation, has many domestic privacy groups highly concerned. They fear that such a ubiquitous national identification system would trample over basic civil rights.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's not some fanciful George Orwell-like conjecture: Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation is language mandating the creation of a "photo tool." While sounding harmless, the tool is in fact a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security. The database would contain names, ages, Social Security number and photographs of everyone within the continental United States.

At risk: Employers will be required to research every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

As included in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, the "photo tool" is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. Civil rights groups fear that this will open a door to even more governmental control. Identification is required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet.

"Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in," Wired columnist David Kravets says.

"It starts to change the relationship between the citizens and state, you do have to get permission to do things," Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union says. "More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things."

Currently legislation solely allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. Historically -- such limitations don't last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits; it is now required for you to purchase health insurance.

"The Social Security number itself, it's pretty ubiquitous in your life," Calabrese said.

David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees. "The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities," he said. "It's like a national ID system without the card."

For the moment, the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to resume debate on the package this week.

   

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