Should the US have a national biometric ID card?

Immigration reform efforts are rekindling interest. However, the cards also raise tough questions about cost, practicality and cultural change.

By Bruce Kennedy Feb 25, 2013 10:19AM Congress grapples with new efforts at immigration reform and the best way to deal with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., the very controversial idea of a national identification card has once again come to the fore.

The Wall Street Journal reports a bipartisan group of senators is exploring the possibility of requiring anyone working in the U.S. to carry a "high-tech identity card that could use fingerprints or other personal markers to prove a person's legal eligibility to work."

The Journal says while the lawmakers aren't calling for a so-called “biometric" ID card and are open to other options, several have supported the concept in the past. Their goal, says the paper, is to "ensure that employers can learn the legal status of all new hires quickly," while preventing illegal immigrants from tricking the system by using made-up or stolen identification data.

The costs of setting up such a system are just one of the obstacles facing a biometric national ID card. "It's going to be a challenge for small business," says Stephen Haag, a professor-in-residence at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business, who specializes in business information and analytics.

"The steep cost of initial implementation, especially if you go the biometric route -- of capturing a biometric identification on everyone who is legal -- would take years," he says, "and hundreds of millions of dollars."

Haag notes the use biometric ID systems is already common outside of national security and intelligence work. For example, fingerprint scans are being used to identify seasonal and annual pass holders at Walt Disney (DIS) theme parks and as an entry device at some university dormitories.

Should a biometric ID card become a reality, Haag envisions a new micro-market emerging, of companies creating portable employee-verification systems that would offer their services to other businesses. "Something along the lines of...these trucks driving around now that do all the shredding that guarantee all of your sensitive documents will be 100% shredded," he says. "I think it would be cost-prohibitive for small business to acquire and maintain the hardware and the software necessary to do it themselves."

The major stumbling block, he believes, would be getting Americans to accept what amounts to a major cultural change. Most ID cards, like your driver's license or green card, explain "who you are." But biometric ID examines the very personal "what you are," as defined by a fingerprint, iris or palm scan, or other invasive methods. And Americans are traditionally not comfortable with that level of scrutiny.

Haag believes that, if done correctly, biometric ID could certainly have an impact on the use of undocumented workers and immigration. But another issue is whether small business would consider such ID cards worth their while.

"Small-business owners are going to look at this and say 'alright, what's the odds of getting caught if I have an illegal worker, and how much is that going to cost me?'" he says. "And they're going to weigh that against, 'how much does it cost me to abide by the regulations?'"

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Feb 25, 2013 1:48PM

No more oppresive governmental fun...Tell them we are tired of all of their demands and we say "NO"


If they could actually do the job they were hired to do we would not need them for another state sponsored ID.



Feb 25, 2013 1:50PM
We already have one. It's called your Social Security Number.

Feb 25, 2013 2:07PM
the problem is the illegals and not the legal ones.  start by securing the border then deporting all who are not legalle here.  then if they want to come live here they must have a trade so the country and hard working tax payers are not in the hole again...
Feb 25, 2013 2:09PM

Just be sure to start with Liberal Journalists and their family members first.


After you guys test out the pilot program for the next 200 years let us know what the results are and we'll consider it.

Feb 25, 2013 1:24PM
I don't know that it makes any difference in this day and age.  With all the information gathering by governments, financial and retail organizations they already have the data and are just not telling us.  It is too late to go back so why not have 1 card that acts as a passport, driver license and concealed carry permit.
Feb 25, 2013 1:35PM

Foretold a couple thousand years ago:


It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to recieve a mark on thier right hands or on thier forheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.


Revelations 13, Verses 16 &17

Feb 25, 2013 2:27PM
Just another way for governent to take our heck with em
Feb 25, 2013 2:48PM

How can a country sink so low so fast?


People are seriously considering requiring citizens of the land of the free (hah!) and the home of the brave to carry an ID so that they can ask Big Brother's permission to work.  What a shame.


If the government made half an attempt to enforce the current laws, we wouldn't have an immigration problem.  Most people working illegally are using fake IDs that are easily spotted at the Federal government level.  When one SSN has 50 jobs paying taxes through it, it's time to visit their employers.  Arrest the "workers" for fraud and deport them.  You don't have to prosecute the employers - just don't allow them to deduct the wages paid to illegals as an otherwise legitimate business expense.

Feb 25, 2013 1:56PM

What's wrong with the Drivers License...I'm sure the state's are quite capable of handling that.


Unless your one of those liberal nut jobs.....That's just got to have a hugh Federal Government.

Feb 25, 2013 2:08PM
Feb 25, 2013 3:03PM
A total waste of money.  I work at a rural hospital and cannot get anyone to bring an ID of any kind.  I was in the Municipal Court for 11 years and apparently only 1/3 of the drivers have driver license.  One more thing for criminals to fake.  Yes criminals including illegal aliens.  Illegal is illegal!
Feb 25, 2013 2:51PM
Just about everyone of age has a driver's license which has a picture; well except for those driving around without a license.  Illegal's should not be allowed to get a driver's license just a work permit.  I have lived/worked in other countries and our social security is the equivalent of their national ID so why is the U.S. government even going down this route.  Congress and the current administration should be working on the the budget instead of spending wasted time on such foolish issues.  In my opinion it sounds like they do not to tackle the budget so they dream up things like this so Americans will think they are actually trying to do something.
Feb 25, 2013 1:43PM
Yes, the government should be providing ID cards of Red, White and Blue.  A Red card for every American citizen man, woman and child: a White card for every man, woman and child in the country legally and a Blue card for those here illegally but here to work.  The latter could be akin to a "work visa".  You have a card, you get to work and to enjoy benefits depending on the color of the card.  Blue would have the least priviledges.  You can move up from Blue to White and then from White to Red as you prove you want to be here and be an American.  Many of those here want the benefits of life in the U S but want to keep their citizenship in Mexico or where they come from.  Watch the protest marches: many do not march with American flags but Mexican flags.  And Mexico gets off scot free in this debate.  If they provided a decent way for men and women to work and support their families, we wouldn't have an immigartion issue.  
Feb 25, 2013 2:58PM

The state of New Mexico gives D.L. to illegals and because of that the citizens of New Mexico will probably have to get passports to travel by air to other parts of the USA.  Homeland Security has given them a 6 month reprieve before this will happen. Susanna Martinez, a Republican, is trying to get this law changed, but the majority ruling democrats are fighting her.  Think about it, American citizens forced to get passports to travel by air WITHIN  their OWN country, because illegals are given a driver liscense.

Feb 25, 2013 2:06PM
i agree ..two things the us should have are national id cards..national drivers license..never understood why you should have to change a drivers just because you move to another state...most state driving rules are the same anyway so why not just have a single one good for all states..
Feb 25, 2013 2:35PM
Here we go again- trying to 're-invent the wheel' attitude creeping in. Just modify the Drivers license/ state ID to include your data- they already have the magnetic strip on the back for swiping the card through a reader- It's not rocket science.
Feb 25, 2013 1:59PM
Thank you Danny Devito for the warning "Gattaca! Gattaca!" ! Someday is here.
Feb 25, 2013 2:27PM
Only on a volunteer bases.  National I.D. not required.
Feb 25, 2013 3:13PM

The begining of the Mark of The Beast. Here is where it all starts.

Feb 25, 2013 3:16PM
After this later in a couple of years they'll be implanting chips in your body but the Mark of the Beast starts here. First a high tech card then later chips
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