In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama looked to seize the opening for immigration reform. He described “real reform” in familiar terms: “strong border security .… establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship. … and fixing the legal immigration system.”
Lawmakers are working to bridge differences. The task shouldn’t be underestimated, even with the favorable political winds, Republicans eager to repair their image in the Latin community.
If one test requires defining that pathway for the 11 million or so illegal immigrants, another stern challenge involves what happened after the immigration reform of the 1980s, the problem hardly going away, employers on this side of the border still hiring the undocumented in big numbers.
Americans don’t easily acknowledge their own responsibility, putting illegal immigrants to work. How, then, to discourage the hiring? Robert Pastor, a professor of international relations at American University, has a promising idea: adoption of free national biometric identification cards.
Pastor notes that Mexico took the step in the 1990s. Each American would receive a card, with a unique identifier. Fail to show a valid ID, and an employer would say, sorry, you can’t work here.
No question, the cry would go up in some quarters about intrusive government. Yet here is a practical, cost-effective way to address a problem. And not just one challenge, potentially: Pastor argues that the biometric ID would erase Republican concerns about voter fraud, and even better provide the basis for millions of eligible yet unregistered Americans to join the rolls of voters.