Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Is Immigration Reform in the Cards?

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Either the Obama Administration’s run by death-defying adrenaline junkies (i.e., the high-stakes bet on Obamacare), or it’s simply a political operation in a hurry to get done what can be done while Democrats enjoy solid majorities in both chambers of Congress.

Or so one would conclude, what with the President meeting with senators later this week to discuss the über-sensitive topic of immigration reform.

Nothing like stepping out of one political buzzsaw, into another.

Is the White House pushing for the sort of large-scale “comprehensive” reform that eluded George W. Bush?

Not exactly.

What seems more likely — and more realistic, in this political environment of limited patience and even more limited results — is another stab at passing a national worker ID program, along with some tougher enforcement measures.

Under the category of “timing is everything”, even minor stirring on this topic gives Barack Obama a bone to toss to his political base, which is none too happy about the Administration’s lack of urgency on immigration reform — despite candidate Obama talking a good game leading up to his election.

Liberal activists have planned a March 21 protest in Washington, with the added threat of punishing Democrats at the polls in November.

Meanwhile, talk of the i.d. card shows how politicians have evolved since the mid-’90s and the heated immigration debate in California.

Back in 1995, a newly empowered Republican Congress flirted with the concept of a national computerized registration system, including a national identification card, for America’s workforce.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein — not a Republican, but a Democrat nearly taken down the previous fall by anti-illegal immigration frustration in her home state — suggested the cards include photos and fingerprints, and even a retina scan if that made the card more tamper-proof.

And the feedback that idea produced? In a word: Orwellian.

Of course, that was well before 9/11.

In the aftermath of that attack, card-identification became more mainstream acceptable. In November 2001, for example, Feinstein and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl introduced so-called “SmartVisa” reform for legal immigrants that featured fingerprints, retinal scans or face-recognition data for newcomers to the U.S..

And now, another run at a national i.d. card.

With at least one snag.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, employers could end up having to pay as much as $800 apiece for scanners to check the new i.d.’s — does that money come out of their pockets, do they get a tax break, or will the feds end up paying for the harware?  It’s that, or head to a local government office, like the nearest DMV branch, to have their workers scanned.

And in California, good luck finding a DMV office that’s open, much less efficient . . .


Written by Bill Whalen

March 9, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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