Thinking Twice: The Catch of the Biometric Bargaining Chip

Reform is in the air, and immigration reform will likely follow health care reform on the Congressional to-do list. While this could be great news, it seems like we will be asked to swallow just about anything, including mandatory electronic employment verification and increased local enforcement of federal immigration law, even if it results in racial profiling, in order to get legalization of the 12-14 million undocumented people currently in the country. And, one of the scariest proposals that is being seriously discussed inside the Beltway is a biometric worker identification card (PDF).

This is Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) baby, and on Tuesday, July 21, he held a hearing about the proposal. Now, biometrics are all kinds of scary for substantive reasons, but there's at least one reason Sen. Schumer's proposal should be terrifying even to those who really want legalization. Sen. Schumer would hate for "American workers to pay any money to the government in order to obtain employment," so he proposes covering the costs of biometric IDs for every U.S. worker with "fees and fines charged to those seeking legalization." So, Senator Schumer is suggesting that 12 million to 14 million immigrants should pay for the biometrics for over 150 million U.S. workers. This idea is simply untenable.

After a 178 percent rate increase in 2007 (PDF), it currently costs $930 to apply for a green card (PDF). (The $600 charged to a child under the age of 14 who applies for permanent residency jointly with a parent should seem like a bargain.) It costs $595 to apply for U.S. citizenship. That's, by the way, an 80 percent increase from 2007. And, of course, everyone agrees that immigrants seeking to legalize will have to pay "an appropriate [read: hefty] fine (PDF)." When we talk about the undocumented, we are often (though not exclusively) talking about low-wage workers who toil long hours at or below minimum wage. Already, legal immigrants with their papers in order cannot afford to apply for permanent residency or to naturalize. Some apply for one family member each year, which means it may be nearly a decade before an entire family has status. If immigrants are to pay for biometrics for the entire country, immigration fees will have to grow once again, which would result in the second exponential fee hike in three years. Coupled with a substantial fine and limited window in which to seek status, it would put adjustment of status out of reach for many otherwise eligible individuals and families.

Those who support legalization should take a moment and consider the following scenario: In order to have legalization as part of immigration reform, Congress also enacts Sen. Schumer's plan. In that case, the costs associated with legalization become so prohibitive that undocumented people who would like to come forward and adjust their status are financially unable to. We would continue to have an undocumented population living in the shadows. Only after immigration reform, they may be subject to a much harsher legal regime that includes local enforcement of federal immigration laws, complete with racial profiling (PDF), and an employment verification regime that makes it much harder for everyone, including undocumented people, to work. Maybe we should all think twice.

UPDATE: This blog post has been amended to include information about the fines that will be charged to undocumented immigrants seeking citizenship.

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If you are worried about this, just think what is going to happen when the government gets all of your medical records. I would say that is a privacy issue.


I have a further fear of mandatory biometrics - fingerprinting of all workers. Will the fingerprints be used only for employment verification, or will they be used for purposes not intended that would violate our constitutional rights?

Vic Livingston


It wasn't right when the Nazis pinned a yellow star on the lapels of the German Jews, or tatooed an ID number on their arms, yet you propose that "biometrics" be used to corral immigrants in America 2009.

This I might expect from Sheriff Arpaio, not from you, Senator Schumer.

Instead, why don't you crusade against the harassment, "community stalking," and electromagnetic microwave radiation weapons torture being inflicted upon unjustly targeted New Yorkers, citizens and immigrants (and Americans nationwide) by federally-funded Nazi-like programs such as New York State's "Operation Impact"?

Please read this article by a journalist who is also a victim of this fascistic "torture matrix" (and a former Madison Square Garden Network sports show host, to add a local reference):

OR (if link is corrupted): RE: "GESTAPO USA"

From Central Ne...

We're seeing alarming and dangerous trends. I, too, expected more from Senator Schumer.


If you go to another country, you must abide by their laws as an immigrant. At some point and time, which should have been years ago, but we failed at that time to see the huge problems it was going to cause us in the future; we have to start enforcing our immigration laws. We have too many immigrants here without the proper legal papers. If we go to other countries, we have to have the proper passports, etc to be able to visit or live; it should apply in the U.S. We can be the land of opportunity to anyone but it has to be legal. We do not even take care of our own people as much as we do immigrants. There are American people starving for many reasons; and yet, we pay more attention to making sure the immigrants are treated better. What about your own American people? What about your own children who are starving? What about your young and elderly people who do not have enough to eat; or do not get the proper medical care because they cannot afford it. What about the people who are losing their jobs left and right because we have paid no attention to our economy for years. What about the American owned businesses that are closing their doors because some of us do not care to buy American made products. What about free education for every child starting from pre-school to high school to vocational school or colleges. What about the $$$ it takes to get into college; it is no wonder we are behind in education; the fees are too high? What about the young men and women who are defending our country? We need to stop and show respect to them; and what about their families who live off of an income that is far less than they deserve. What about the DISABLED VETERANS, young and old, who defended your country? Why are worrying about an illegal immigrant without proper papers! Wake up America! We should take care of our American people of all colors; and they should all have the same RIGHTS! Get with it America and take care of your own legal AMERICANS! An illegal immigrant should be deported to his country; and when he gets legal papers to be in the US, then we can help them.


Maggie, I hope that you are feeling better and your personal situation is improving.

From what I can gather, the government already has access to your health care records, your e-mail, your phone conversations, the books you check out of the library, and how much coffee you buy at Starbucks.


Why are we bred to feel sorry for these people when American's who fought for this country are suffering? I say deport them and focus on bettering OUR lives. With 335 BILLION a year illegals cost us we could be giving that to Mexico so they can fix their own problems.


I think that this whole bargaining chip is ridiculous just like Schumer him self. First I think this chip would be a privacy issue and second I think it would be inhumane. What about the legal ordinary American people that don't want or need the chip. How would they get what they need? How would they have a job to provide for their families without this chip? What's the next idea Schumer has, GPS chips to track every legal American? Where is the privacy in all this? NONE!!! What so ever!!! We need to wake up and stop the government from their so call "power trip" over all of us Americans. I thought the people where the shot callers not just and only congress and the house.


American, thank you for disagreeing with Bill O'Reilly's claim of homeless veterans (the only people who might have fought for this country; the rest of us are just arguing). I will ask you to start checking what you read from unreliable sources. The $335B number you toss out is bogus. Please read the article at


I believe that we are building a wall like old China--it did not work for them, and it will not work for us. We need some form of workers registration and reasonable immigration laws. Right now, we are making Europe look very open. I traved this past spring thru 6 countries and showed my passport only once --in Romania. We are going overboard in our behavior towards international visitors and people. Stop and think about it why would anyone want to come here and be harrassed on vacation. Our travel policies are not only extreme invasive but harmful to the economy. Do you know that in 2009, a new policy went into effect that requires visitors coming from other counties that we do not requires visas for entry such as England and Germany --now have to request entry ahead of their visit. Why? This sounds a bit paranoid to me. I spent my last night in Europe in Frankfort --waiting for a morning plane to the USA. Ghosh, I guess they must be strange for they do not require such call. Germany , Poland, and England have lived with more threats than we can ever imagine. But they still act openly and invite us in with little special papers. Maybe we can learn something from them.

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