The U.S. government has just started issuing wallet-sized “passport cards,” valid for travel to Canada, Mexico and Bermuda.
Unlike the traditional book passport, passport cards can be conveniently carried on the person. They are also tamper-resistant, made of the same tinted plastic as permanent residency cards.
They cost $45, cheaper than a passport book, but still: more than 4 hours’ pay for a low-wage worker. What if the government publicized their existence – set up temporary passport offices in malls to offer them more conveniently – and dropped the price to “free” for the next 15 months? These cards make proof of U.S. citizenship easily available to everybody who wants it. We could make a national movement out of it, commercials with Lee Greenwood singing “Proud to be an American,” and try to persuade half the country to carry them voluntarily. Combined with enforcement of the existing requirement that legal permanent residents carry their green cards (as Byron York notes, that’s been the law since 1952), here’s a way to extend hassle-free proof of residency status to everyone. The cards would be an especial boon to employers who profess to find it very difficult to confirm the legality of job applicants – and to naturalized citizens with weak English, whose residency rights would otherwise be doubted.
Illegal immigration is a huge national problem. For those who would like to contribute to a solution, participation should be made as unburdensome as possible.