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 4:27PM

All the troops returning from the middle east are going to need work, line them up at the border. Would be cheaper than biometric id. The problem with that is the gov't wants to control us, not the border.

Feb 25, 2013 4:19PM
When Social Security runs out of money around the year 2030, if it is done away with, what will people use as an identifying number to an employer, financial institution, etc.? If there is no Social Security, the old numbers will be worthless to everyone.

Alas and unfortunate for all.  The problem is that you are in a sort of conflict of interests, and you will need to solve what amounts to be a sort of decision matrix of multiple issues all at once, rather than a single, simple solutiomn to a single issue of problem.:


We have a national influx of "illegal aliens".  Folks come HERE for about 2 reasons - a JOB and a BETTER LIFE, than they had at home.  Cannot blame them.  BUT we do have a LEGAL process whereby one can get in and become a citizen and gain those perks of being an "American".  ALL those who get here illegally are, by definition, illegally HERE, and now need to leave.   So we want to  - NEED TO - solve the "illegals here" problem.


Sad to have to admit it, but, as long as 1) we cannot physically keep them outside the border, 2) generally want them "out", and 3) don't seem to want to allow police to collect them and deport them without something near to every "process due a citizen" - we have a problem.


The answer is either make it VERY VERY COSTLY for anyone to HIRE them here, or ... IDENTIFICATION.  And acting on the LACK of same.  As we seem unwilling to make it COSTLY for US businesses to hire illegals - like maybe fining them 1000 per day per illegal hire???, I guess we need to address the matter through requiring less-forgeable ID.  We already need to identify ourselves to get on airplanes and indeed to get into many buildings, etc. So, while nice and traditional-sounding and quaint and "back in the G.O.D.", argument against a national ID is really pretty lame.  (NO, this does not mean that I LIKE the idea of needing such a card - but I do recognize that we will need to have SOMETHING)


But you cannot have it all ways.  It's really pretty much "folks must have a valid ID to get a job here" or you cannot effectively weed-out the illegals.  And this ID needs to be something which is hard to forge, as we have any number of clever and capable sorts looking for a new opportunity - and forgery of documents has been a big and diverse industry for a long time!  A National card may, sadly, be the ticket.

Feb 25, 2013 3:53PM
and will the illegals be required to get one or will Holder and Obama  just hand them out by presidential decree.....
Feb 25, 2013 3:44PM
  No,No,No, all we need is for every state to have a photo on drivers lic. to be used for ID !!!!!!!!!!
Feb 25, 2013 3:18PM
In the book of Revelation God's warns His people not to accept the Mark either in the hand or forehead. Not to accept it at all
Feb 25, 2013 3:16PM
facebook gathers more info than our government.   And I collect information for the government for a living. 
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
Feb 25, 2013 3:14PM
Like a "Show Me" on the show Fringe...?
Feb 25, 2013 3:13PM

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

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 2:58PM

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 2:51PM
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 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 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 2:33PM

I would think that this type of thing would only have merit if stricter immigration laws were enacted and enforced, because of the implications regarding the federal government keeping tabs on American Citizens.  Now this may sound paranoid but ask yourselves; if there is no intent to enforce or enhance immigration laws and stem the flow of illegal aliens entering and residing in this country, then what would be the purpose of registering American Citizens in this fashion?

Again, not to be a nay sayer, however,  there are many things the Federal Government is allowed to do that the public is not acutely aware of, for instance: Do you know that the Federal Government has 22 months to correct any finance errors that they have made.  This means that if you have had money withheld by the Federal Government for a tax refund or Social Security, or virtually any other reason, by the Federal Government, then the government has 22 months to rectify the situation before they are required by law to release those funds to you; most citizens are not aware of this.  I only mention this example of Federal Government legal entitlement because it makes me wonder what rights or latitude the Federal Government might have granted itself regarding tracking a persons identity for whatever purpose they see fit.  Having a card such as this and having it be required of all citizens would certainly make tracking any individuals movements much easier to accomplish.  In the future legislation could be enacted to require citizens to present their card for a multitude of things such as loans, the purchase of homes, automobile purchases, opening banks accounts; and the list is endless.  This would mean that the Federal Government would be able to track all citizens daily lives quite easily.  We would then, probably need to ask ourselves; is this something that we want, a can of worms that we want to open?

Feb 25, 2013 2:27PM
Only on a volunteer bases.  National I.D. not required.
Feb 25, 2013 2:27PM
Just another way for governent to take our heck with em
Feb 25, 2013 2:22PM

not sure why people keep blaming obama for the debt..the only reason it's so high is the 2 wars we're fighting which were started by the bush family lies to seek's natural that the longer we stay in war the more it's gonna cost..the debt  would be high whether it's a rep or deb president.

honestly who is a real threat to the us..the taliban..please.

Feb 25, 2013 2:12PM
yeah but a social security card has no would be good if it did..
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