May 14, 2013. Senators reject biometric tracking in immigration reform. Liz Goodwin, Yahoo news.
“A bipartisan group of senators voted against adding a biometric system to the sweeping immigration reform bill that would ensure people on tourist, student and other temporary visas leave the country when they are supposed to. The failed amendment was one of the most controversial additions to the bill considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee at Tuesday’s hearing.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, backed the amendment that would have required the government to use fingerprints and other biometric data to track visitors when they leave the country at airports and other ports of exit. Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, argued the system would be too expensive to implement.
It was voted down 6-12, with two Republicans joining the 10 Democrats in opposing it. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who helped draft the original bill, said he opposed the amendment because the government hasn’t shown “the will or the desire” to implement the system, and he doubted including it in the bill would change that.
Despite some conservative opposition to the immigration bill, attempts to significantly alter the bill have failed in the committee mark-up process so far.
The current immigration reform bill seeks to legalize most of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country and prevent future illegal immigration though an employment verification system and more border security measures. About 40 percent of the unauthorized immigrants currently in the country entered legally and then overstayed their visas, which Sessions argued raises national security concerns.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress passed a bill mandating that the government institute a biometric tracking system for people on temporary, nonimmigrant visas such as for tourism. Twelve years later, the system still hasn’t been implemented due to cost and other complications.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated it would cost up to $6.4 billion to implement a biometric tracking system in the nation’s airports, according to a report in USA Today. It’s unclear how much it would cost to install similar technology in the country’s land ports, where nearly 80 percent of people enter the United States.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said at the hearing that he was concerned that requiring the biometric system would delay the citizenship process for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants who will benefit from the bill. The amendment said none of those immigrants would be able to apply for citizenship before the biometric system was put in place. The current bill lays out a 10-year waiting period for citizenship for the group.
A spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and a member of the “Gang of Eight” that drafted the bill, told The Hill he was “disappointed” with the vote, and that he would try to reintroduce it once senators begin debating the bill on the Senate floor.
Another rejected amendment, introduced by Sessions on Tuesday, sought to significantly reduce future legal immigration. Sessions argued it would help the American economy to keep legal immigration numbers down. All of Sessions’ colleagues on the committee, Republican and Democrat, voted against the measure.”
May 10th, 2013. Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform. David Kravets, Wired.com
“The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday (May 9th) 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 (.pdf) 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. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being 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.
“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”
For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it 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 with the ACLU’s fears.
“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 focused on the parameters of legalization for unauthorized immigrants, a border fence and legal immigration in the future.”