November/December, 1998 Volume XIII Number 3
National ID card on fast track;
Transportation Department already
by David M. Bresnahan
making the rules
Washington, D.C. -Like it or not, the day is fast approaching when every American will carry a national identification card. Those who do not have one will be denied many basic services.
Little notice was given to the issue in 1996 when Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. One section of the act requires all states to make their driver's licenses comply with certain guidelines found in Section 656 (b) of the act.
Federal agencies will be required to prohibit the use of state driver's licenses beginning Oct. 1, 2000, unless they comply with the federal standards. The new licenses must use the Social Security number as the driver's license number, for example.
The act also calls for digitized biometric information to be a part of each license, or "smart card." This information will not be required initially. But later, the biometric information will include fingerprints, retina scans, DNA prints, and other similar information.
Responsibility for the design and implementation of the cards has been given to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation. That agency has recently published the proposed "Driver's License/SSN/National Identification Document," which contains the guidelines which must be in force by Oct. 1, 2000. The "Notice of Proposed Rule Making" sets out the standards for each state to follow in the design of "identification documents."
"These new National ID regulations violate every notion of federalism, because they force states to comply with regulations issued by the federal government without any constitutional authority to do so," says Patrick Poole of the Free Congress Foundation. "Nor are federal agencies empowered to force state to gather detailed information on every person in order to comply with federal mandates. The net result of the DOT's regulations is to establish a national ID system, which has been opposed by almost every non-governmental sector for the past five decades."
Shortly after the passage of the act by congress, Utah state Rep. Gerry A. Adair introduced a bill to comply with the federal requirements. The level of opposition from the public was extensive, which Adair said at the time surprised him. The bill was defeated and was regarded as one of the most controversial bills of that session.
States which fail to comply with the federal requirements will impose difficulties on their citizens. Without the new card it may become impossible to purchase firearms, get a job, board a plane, vote, cash a check, open a bank or investment account, purchase insurance, receive federal benefits, obtain a student loan, receive Medicare or Medicaid benefits, and many more basic services presently taken for granted according to Poole.
Once the card is in use, Poole suggests that privacy will be a thing of the past. Information will be easily available about all aspects of every American's life. The information stored in each card will be held in a computer chip imbedded in the card, which may one day be injected under a person's skin. Experiments testing such an identification system have already been conducted on military personnel and for identification security at the Olympics.
For those who point to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, Poole explains that President Bill Clinton recently signed Executive Order 13083 entitled "Federalism." That document effectively gives authority to the federal government to force anything it wants on states. No effort was made by anyone in Congress to overturn the Executive Order.
Conservatives went to their legislators in 1995 to protest an effort by Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to establish a Conference of the States to address the issue of states' rights and federalism. Leavitt campaigned hard and pointed to a federal government that had overstepped its intended role and authority by imposing unfunded mandates on states.
Conservatives succeeded in defeating the effort but have thus far remained relatively silent about the recent Executive Order 13083.
Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum surprisingly had no comment on the Executive Order. Leavitt could not be reached for comment, but he has been very outspoken on states rights in the past.
The executive order apparently sets the stage for the federal government to dictate anything it wants to the states. Compliance will be mandated and states' rights will be a thing of the past, according to Poole. He said he would not be surprised to see more mandates such as the national ID card forced upon unwilling states and citizens.
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