Immigration Reform Could Lead To Biometric ID Cards

United States Social Security card with finger print abstract

If one part of some lawmakers’ plan for comprehensive immigration reform goes through, Social Security cards could soon come with a fingerprint.

Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Thursday that their Senate framework for immigration reform, recently endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), could require biometric information to check employment status.

Asked whether he favored “a super Social Security card that would have some sort of biometric thing like a fingerprint” by Politico’s Mike Allen at a Politico Playbook breakfast on Wednesday, McCain said, “I’m for it.”

McCain said he was not sure “exactly how” such a proposal would play out in any legislation, “but there is technology now that could give us a Social Security card, people a Social Security card, that is tamper-proof.”

“We want to make sure that employers do not hire people who are here illegally,” said Schumer, who has called for biometric employment cards in the past. “The only way to do that is to have a non-forgeable card. Because right now you can go down the street here and get a Social Security card or a driver’s license for $100 that’s forged.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but McCain and Schumer’s proposal sounds similar to President Barack Obama’s call in his immigration reform outline for a “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant” Social Security card and “new methods to authenticate identity.”

Biometrics proposals have been floated for years as one solution to the vexing problem of how to prove workers are who they say they are. The ID card industry sees the potential for billions of dollars of business if immigration reform leads to biometric requirements. Privacy advocates, however, worry the new proposals could in essence create a national ID — and lead to a spate of Arizona-style “show-me-your-papers” laws.