ACLU Urges Congress to Stop the March Toward National ID

July 22, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today called on Congress to stop the march toward creation of a national ID card as a method of fighting illegal immigration.

The House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee is expected today to consider proposals to turn the Social Security card into an identification document and to examine the creeping federalization of state-issued driver’s licenses. Although the agenda for the hearing is document fraud and counterfeiting, efforts to combat these problems often devolve into proposals to create a national ID card.

“National ID card proposals pose one of the greatest threats to personal privacy in the United States today,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Gregory T. Nojeim. “If mandated by Congress for one purpose, we know from experience that a national ID card would eventually be required for engaging in even the most routine transactions — from opening a bank account to boarding an airplane to entering a building.”

In 1996, Congress narrowly rejected a measure that would have required the Social Security Administration to put a photograph or other biometric identifier on the Social Security card, thus turning it into an identification document.

A bill (H.R. 191) to do the same thing under the guise of “hardening” the Social Security card was introduced this year by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL).

Three years ago Congress adopted an immigration law that included a provision (Section 656) that would create a defacto national ID card. Implementation of this provision was held up by Congress last year when thousands of citizens wrote the Department of Transportation to complain that it amounted to national ID.

The provision effectively requires the states to issue identification documents that conform to a federal standard, and requires states to put driver’s Social Security Numbers on the driver’s license, unless the state is willing to go through the expense of verifying every driver’s SSN with the Social Security Administration.

“We must not create a national ID through the back door of a federal mandate to the states,” Nojeim added. “Congress should repeal the defacto national ID card provision once and for all.” The ACLU urged members of the Immigration Subcommittee to co-sponsor H.R. 2337, a bi-partisan bill that would repeal Section 656.

The tesimony can be found at:/node/21073

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