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Immigration Reform Could Lead To Biometric ID Cards

February 1, 2013
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Source: Bloomberg

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Biometrics proposals have been floated for years as one solution to the vexing problem of how to prove workers are who they say they are. The ID card industry sees the potential for billions of dollars of business if immigration reform leads to biometric requirements. Privacy advocates, however, worry the new proposals could in essence create a national ID -- and lead to a spate of Arizona-style "show-me-your-papers" laws.

Some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States resort to using forged or stolen Social Security identities to obtain work. A computer system called E-Verify is supposed to catch people who are not authorized to work in the United States, but it goes no further than matching a name to a number, and its use is usually voluntary.

Moreover, E-Verify "has too many false negatives and false positives," Schumer said. A 2008 government study concluded that 0.8 percent of authorized workers are identified as unauthorized by the system, and 54 percent of unauthorized workers were tagged as authorized. With hundreds of thousands of employers signed up for E-Verify, and millions of workers covered, the mistakes add up -- and even for American-born citizens, proving identity can sometimes turn into a bureaucratic nightmare.

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