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Immigration reform is a hot topic, but the bill before the Senate adds another layer of policy debate on top of it. Many have called for national identification systems in the past, but privacy groups oppose the step. Among the fears: As happened in the Holocaust, the system could be used to single out minorities for persecution.
The bill mandates a “photo tool,” or a massive federal database to be maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. It would contain names, ages, Social Security numbers, and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID. Employers would have to look up every employee in the database upon hiring them. The clause calling for the database is meant to curb hiring of undocumented workers.
But privacy advocates fear it will be used for all sorts of things, like registering at polling places, buying a gun, opening a bank account, and other tasks.
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“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state; you do have to get permission to do things,” Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union, told Wired. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”
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