A Solution to Arizona’s Immigration Bill Standoff

April 29th, 2010 at 8:28 am David Frum | 43 Comments |

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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.

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43 Comments so far ↓

  • balconesfault

    I’d say it’s time for going to national RFID tag subdermal implants.

    The tags would be optional, of course … we cannot require citizens to accept them.

    But this would facilitate police simply scanning people as they pass, and anyone who doesn’t check out correctly could be detained and required to present their identification.

    That would greatly reduce the amount of work for police officers, and it would eliminate any concerns over profiling. Just cause for stopping and checking someone wouldn’t have to be based on external physical features but simply on failure to electronically record on the police RFID sensors.

    With this system, in a fairly short time, we should be able to in a cost efficient manner be FREE of the alien menace that threatens our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

  • ottovbvs

    …….get real David……the immigration problem is NOT about getting an alternative to driving licenses which is what visitors to Canada, Bermuda and Mexico used for years…..it’s about dealing with 12-20 million illegals already here, strengthening border security, and setting up some sensible immigrant/guest worker program that enables people to come here legally and get on some path to citizenship at some point thereby removing the incentive for illegal entry…….David for someone so married to free market doctrines you seem singularly oblivious to their incentive systems when it comes to immigration……they are not noticeably different from smuggling cigarettes, currency, liquor or any other commodity

  • ottovbvs

    balconesfault // Apr 29, 2010 at 8:34 am

    ………I see lines forming for these implants……but will we have the right to sue if it all goes awfully wrong and they produce warts on the nose or reduce sexual potency?

  • MrIndependent

    Frum…your article screams White Privilege…you have no idea what it means to be physically singled out because of your skin color. There is no right way to enable police to pull over brown people and check their status.

    Hispanic Americans will be disproportionately targeted. No cop is ever going to pull over a group of white teenagers and check their ID.

    So as not to just gripe about your solution, I’ll offer you one. Cops around the country routinely establish random road blocks to check for DUIs. This system eliminates the opportunity for discrimination. Arizona should implement random road blocks to check everyone’s citizenship. That way, everyone has an equal opportunity of being inconvenienced by the cops…

  • cporet

    I don’t need a “passport card”. I’m White.

  • nhthinker

    MrIndependent-
    Of course, we know cops are going to check white teen IDs on a traffic stop- especially if he smells pot or sees empty beer cans on the floor. He will also use other factors for “reasonable suspicion” such as the time of day, the number of occupants, the presence of backpacks and water.
    Much of the checking in AZ will be in the middle of the night on highways that are known for illegal immigrant and drug smuggling.

  • ottovbvs

    nhthinker // Apr 29, 2010 at 9:15 am

    “Much of the checking in AZ will be in the middle of the night on highways that are known for illegal immigrant and drug smuggling.”

    ………not moved out of the irony free zone yet I see ……what about 7-11′s, outside construction or agg dumps or anywhere where casual labor is hired, or guys just cleaning up yards……your rose tinted view

  • IndyVoter

    With all due respect, a National Indentity Card? Did you spend much time in South Africa back in the aparthied days? What’s next on the card? Religion (we could just use symbols to make it easier)? Race (White, bantu, mixed)? I thought you guys were worried about too much government intrusion in personal lives, or does that just extent to people who came across the Atlantic on the more northern routes? Think about this a bit more, and where it leads….OK?

  • thibaud1995

    This “solution” is facile and does not address the core issue that I worry about: the only people who will need to prove citizenship are those citizens or legal residents who are people of color and who speak with an accent. Of course, I could easily be Canadian (Caucasian with dark hair and light eyes, French surname) but we’re not worried too much about educated Canadians cruising the day labor lots or scoring cocaine on a deserted highway are we? Adding a passport card drive to the workload of an already overburdened passport service increases costs for what I think would be very little benefit.

  • balconesfault

    Indyvoter – I’m with you there.

    Had a Democratic President been the first to propose and implement many of the measures in the Patriot Act (or for that matter, run a warrantless wiretapping and e-mail tracking program) I believe there would have been serious violence against Federal Officers.

    Similarly, a Democrat proposing a national id card would have been decried as the anti-Christ.

    But thanks to hysteria, then over terrorism, now over immigration, many embrace what are really draconian solutions with huge potential for unintended consequences when those solutions are proposed by Republicans.

  • sinz54

    Mr.Independent: Arizona should implement random road blocks to check everyone’s citizenship.
    A lot of illegal aliens just try to cross the deserts and fields.

    The right solution is to seal the damn border! We could build a virtual fence of electronic sensors that would detect anyone trying to sneak across without going through a legal checkpoint.

    Every time this has been proposed, it’s been shot down. The dirty little secret of this country, which “ottovbs” never tires of pointing out, is that we love our low priced produce at the supermarket and our affordable lovely hotel rooms–but we don’t ask who those workers are.

    What’s needed here is leadership. If President Obama really cared about this issue, he would ask his economists to price the use of illegal alien labor, and then go on nationwide TV to tell the American people that he’s prepared to take strong action to get rid of the illegal aliens–but he’ll also tell the American people how much more our produce and gardens and hotel rooms will cost once they have to pay American workers the minimum wage (or, heaven forbid, union scale).

    It’s just another example of politicians not willing to tell the American people how much things really cost.

  • windsorboy

    I have a better idea. Why not pass a law that requires everyone who is Hispanic and a US citizen to wear something on their clothing that identifies them properly. Perhaps a bright yellow star sewn into the vest of their suits or dresses?

  • forgetn

    “Show me your papers” (with a German accent…)

    I guess that’s Arizona now, BTW where is the Tea Party on this issue, they are, after all, for liberty and freedom…OK maybe not for brown people. There is no doubt that Arizona has an illegal immigration problem, obviously as other border states strengthen their illegal immigration process the state with the weaker barrier will suffer the consequences. No wonder that state support for such a law is so high at 70%.

    You’ve got to admit (maybe nobody cares in Arizona) that the state’s image has suffered a mighty blow! Of course the best part is that if neighbors get into a disagreement with an “ethnic” neighbor they can complain about the right of this person to reside there and get the police to harass them away… Since the police can be sued for not actively prosecuting possible cases of illegal immigrants, it opens the door to all kinds of abuse. What does that sound like, could it be Germany in the late 30s where the government encourage the Aryan population to gang up against the other ethnicities.

    All this in the land of the brave and the free… my how things change

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Apr 29, 2010 at 10:13 am

    “Every time this has been proposed, it’s been shot down. The dirty little secret of this country, which “ottovbs” never tires of pointing out, is that we love our low priced produce at the supermarket and our affordable lovely hotel rooms–but we don’t ask who those workers are.”

    …….it’s been shot down because without constructing a 2000 mile East German style barrier which would require huge resources to manage it wouldn’t work………and I never tire of pointing out the dirty little secret because as I “pointed out” yet again at 8.38 it’s all driven by economics…….until you come up with a solution on the lines I suggested that recognizes economic reality you’re never going to find an effective solution…….it’s like the drug problem…….were never going to win the war on drugs until we recognize certain economic drivers……the irony in all this is the “free market” party can’t recognize this obvious contradiction in their stance……but then most of their policies are self contradictory……on another thread you support a nuclear policy as do many Republicans……but nuclear can never happen without substantial govt intervention……and Republicans are against govt intervention unless it involves demands that Mexicans show their papers in Arizona?

  • ottovbvs

    windsorboy // Apr 29, 2010 at 10:15 am

    “Perhaps a bright yellow star sewn into the vest of their suits or dresses?”

    …….too many negative connotations…how about about a red chili pepper?

  • nhthinker

    1) Control the border
    2) Enforce the law
    a) smuggling of illegal aliens will be more difficult once this law goes into effect
    b) the il-legalizing of picking up day workers in the middle of the street will reduce illegal commerce
    3) Employers need to do their part in assuring that workers are legal

    Carrying ID is normal for every adult that drives regularly and also for every adult that don’t drive much but go bar hopping. There is a small portion of the population that does not actually carry ID on their person every time they leave their house.

    In less than a few years, police departments will be able to know if almost any adult is a citizen or not by asking your name, your date of birth and your legal address. Most can already pull up your picture from the driver’s license databases. If the driver’s licenses data bases are cleaned to include us citizenship or state citizenship requirements, then the potential for significant inconveniences for not carrying ID probably evaporates for the most part.

  • PracticalGirl

    Seriously, David? I, as an American citizen, ought to embrace a practice- disprove a negative-that is Constitutional shaky, at the very least?

    Tell you what: I’ll proudly produce my wallet-sized passport each time I’m asked (or wear it around my neck for public law enforcement expediency) if the American citizens who break our laws by hiring illegals will proudly mark their business store fronts, vehicles, and (ESPECIALLY in Arizona) their homes with a big, fat scarlet letter for each dollar they pocket on the backs of this kind of labor.

    The Arizona law (precisely as the Federal enforcement efforts under the past several Administrations) attacks the symptoms, not the root cause. Illegal immigration, like cancer, requires a host for it to grow. The American businesses-small and large, private and public- who hire illegals provide a soft, warm and moist environment for illegal labor to prosper. And, just as in cancer treatment, the only way to get rid of the symptoms and nasty cells is to radiate the heck out of the host.

  • ltoro1

    Does the card have your Date of Birth? If so I could use one. Although I’m 31, I still get carded for beer and since I happen to have a driver’s license that is 16 years old (it’s been renewe by mail twice, valid until 2012) I get a lot of questions. I have a feeling if I showed it to a local cop in AZ I would probably be detained. Sounds like a good way to kill two birds with one stone. :)

  • nhthinker

    Correction- I said “citizenship”- I meant “legal residence”.
    Checking a central updated system is typically much better method because legal ID can be forged or revoked.
    Coordination of some federal and state information is not illegal.

  • windsorboy

    ottovbvs said “…….too many negative connotations…how about about a red chili pepper?”.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just plain racist. ;)

  • ottovbvs

    nhthinker // Apr 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

    …….still in the irony and reality free zone I see…….this is not about driving licenses…..another “conservative” denying the “laws of the market.”

  • PracticalGirl

    Sinz:

    “The dirty little secret of this country, which “ottovbs” never tires of pointing out, is that we love our low priced produce at the supermarket and our affordable lovely hotel rooms–but we don’t ask who those workers are.”

    Agreed, with a caveat: Americans have a false sense of what a head of lettuce (for example) actually costs them. While it might appear to cost $1.50, the enormous costs accociated with illegal labor (unpaid medical treatment, public school and ESL programs, incarceration etc) are all, either directly or indirectly, paid for by the tax payer. So that head of lettuce-especially in West coast and border states-actually costs a taxpayer at least twice what it appears.

    Like you, I am unsure if most Americans understand this, and I wonder what the fallout will be if cheap labor goes away and we start paying at the counter what our lettuce actually costs. But I also wonder whether or not our current and particular form of capitalism can actually thrive without shadow labor. Not to say we shouldn’t solve the problem, but I do think our consumer-based economy is in for a shock when/if we do.

  • ottovbvs

    windsorboy // Apr 29, 2010 at 11:34 am

    “I’m sorry, but that’s just plain racist. ”

    …….how about a red star then?…..oh no that’s communist……an enchilada?…..flavored so it could be licked for confirmation of status?……whites (like nhthinker) would have apple pies…..also flavored

  • ottovbvs

    PracticalGirl // Apr 29, 2010 at 11:39 am

    ” But I also wonder whether or not our current and particular form of capitalism can actually thrive without shadow labor.”

    ………You get one side of the equation……the other side is that as long as there is a huge such market for low cost labor acting like a giant magnet sucking in immigrants then they will find a way here whatever the cost……the only way you neutralize the magnet is by creating an alternative route in that although arduous and irksome is rather less so than than the illegal one

  • Arizona and the creeping police state - E.D. Kain - American Times - True/Slant

    [...] for some form of national identification has once again reared its ugly head0. Today, David Frum wrote: The U.S. government has just started issuing wallet-sized “passport cards,” valid for travel [...]

  • Dana King

    The passport cards reflect a requirement by a foreign nation for us to prove American citizenship; we shouldn’t have to do it at home. If Arizona (California, Texas, whoever) really wants to get serious about illegal immigration, let them go after the businesses who employ the illegals. Show up at the company when everyone arrives for work and ask to see the I-9 records for everyone there.

    Illegals come here in large part because there’s work for them here, i.e. someone is paying them to come. Shut that off and see what happens.

  • JeninCT

    I agree with Sinz. Close the border, and then police employers who hire illegals. Creating another form of ID is ridiculous and is no solution.

  • ottovbvs

    “Illegals come here in large part because there’s work for them here, i.e. someone is paying them to come. Shut that off and see what happens.”

    ……absolutely true…….but it’s never going to be shut off……what are you going to do…… start imprisoning lettuce farmers (which would mean the heads of major corps) or every little construction or landscaping contractor, hotel managers…….this is the problem…….you guys think you can make blanket statements like “Shut that off and see what happens” as if it’s ever going to happen……how about I make a few blanket statements like Cancer will be cured tomorrow, the national median income will rise to $75k…..it changes nothing…….you’re dealing with overwhelming economic imperatives that are not going to solved by bromides

  • ottovbvs

    JeninCT // Apr 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    “I agree with Sinz. Close the border, and then police employers who hire illegals”

    …….you mean like the huge success we’re having with policing the drug trade……errr….and what about the 12-20 million illegals already here and their offspring who aren’t illegal having been born in the US?

  • JeninCT

    ottovbvs wrote:

    “JeninCT // Apr 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    “I agree with Sinz. Close the border, and then police employers who hire illegals”

    …….you mean like the huge success we’re having with policing the drug trade……errr….and what about the 12-20 million illegals already here and their offspring who aren’t illegal having been born in the US?”

    And then we should change the ‘citizenship by birth only’ requirement for citizenship. The child born only of a full citizen should be granted citizenship.

  • ktward

    ottovbvs // Apr 29, 2010 at 11:43 am:
    …an enchilada?…..flavored so it could be licked for confirmation of status?……whites (like nhthinker) would have apple pies…..also flavored
    Cat bolted again. Stewart’s got nothing on you. [dabbing tears of laughter from my eyes so that I may read on]

  • ktward

    This ‘passport card’ is like one of those teeny tiny bandaids included in the multi-size box: try to actually use one, it just falls off after 2 minutes. Useless in any practical sense.

    David’s tripping all over himself in attempts to equivocate 1070′s effects. Perhaps he is muzzling his neocon conscience to avoid inviting more flaming GOP arrows.

    The absurd irony: the people most supportive of 1070 are the same ‘real’ Americans who, in ’08, declared Socialist Obama’s evil Brown Shirts were going to erode away our very liberties.

    I don’t see the ‘Brown Shirts’ they so direly warned of.

    I do know that if my friend here in Chicago–a US citizen of Mexican descent–were to drive his son’s beater through AZ after 1070 takes effect, there’s every probability he will be stopped and asked to produce proof of his US status without even the excuse of having committed the slightest infraction of any non-immigration law.

    Talk about eroding away our liberties.

  • Bebe99

    It’s more than just Latinos creeped out by the Arizona law. I don’t like to be paranoid, but whenever I pass through the border check points with my darker skinned child–who is often taken for Mexican–I always get a little uneasy. No reason, I’ve never been questioned by the Border Patrol–but the Border Patrol have a lot of experience and training regarding which people to watch out for. I’m fairly sure your ordinary Arizona police officer won’t be getting this kind of training.

  • ktward

    It’s more than just Latinos creeped out by the Arizona law.

    Indeed. It’s, again, about the erosion of our civil liberties.

  • ottovbvs

    JeninCT // Apr 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    “And then we should change the ‘citizenship by birth only’ requirement for citizenship. The child born only of a full citizen should be granted citizenship.”

    ……this would require a constitutional amendment since the constitution specifically states that all those born on US soil are US citizens!!!…….that’s the problem with all these zany solutions by all you right wingers……you want to overturn the constitution, Carney wants to to overturn individual and property rights, Sinz want to build zillion dollar fences that would be ineffective……….none of you will face up to the fact that this is driven by economics and we have a huge issue with 12-20 million illegals already here…….so we get none solutions like the one they’ve come up with in AZ that cause more trouble than they are worth.

  • ottovbvs

    ktward // Apr 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    “Cat bolted again. Stewart’s got nothing on you. [dabbing tears of laughter from my eyes so that I may read on]”

    …..glad you appreciated it…..nh thinker dismisses my acerbity as “low brow humor”……….acerbic humor seems the only suitable response for these guys who are completely out to lunch when it comes to understanding this issue

  • nhthinker

    Otto,

    Actually this “cat hopper” was funny. Inaccurate, but funny!
    My ethnicity is more canolli with a Dewar’s chaser than apple pie. And actually on multiple occasions, strangers have walked up to me and started talking in Hebrew to me- in Vermont, no less.

    Humor is a key part of humanity. Rationality and respect are too.

    I find you flippant more than acerbic. You are welcome to respond with buffoonery to efforts to engage in rational discussion. Every court needs a jester.

  • ottovbvs

    nhthinker // Apr 29, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    “Every court needs a jester.”

    ……based on what I’ve read you would certainly wouldn’t qualify you for this position as you obviously live in a totally irony and reality free zone…..and one man’s flippancy is another’s acerbity……….But keep taking the Dewars and water….. it might help

  • nhthinker

    Otto,

    You have the position of jester locked up and I have no intentions of taking it away from you.

    Do you already have the hat with bells on it? Careful- you might be mistaken for a tea bagger.

  • Go Dog Go!

    Frum, I think you’re missing what the problem is.

    This legislation was terribly written: It left open “reasonable suspicion” without any qualification, opening up violations of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” guarantee. It’s a vague law, which by definition is a bad law. No ID card will clarify that.

    The real fix is to see illegals as part of a free market: The market for jobs. Rigorous enforcement and increased penalties on those who hire illegals is the ONLY solution. We, as the party of free markets, know darn well that employers of illegals are the real problem. Until the farmers and hotel managers are thrown in jail for hiring (ie, creating a market for) illegals, it’ll only get worse.

    So while a national ID card is certainly needed, it should be applied to the purposes of employment, keeping employers accountable, not for regular folks walking down the street who look “suspicious.”

  • JoeWalton

    Closing the border is not by itself a solution – many, perhaps most, illegals arrive by air legally, then overstay their visas. Green cards are very commonly counterfeited. So are social security cards. The simple national id card suggested here probably could be counterfeited too.

    The key to reducing the number of illegal residents (it will never be zero) is reducing the number of jobs available to them. But doing this in a meaningful way will demand government resources (new taxes, anyone?), cooperation from employers and an expansion of police power unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

    An easy way for the smallest employers to verify the employment eligibility of job applicants is required – no easy task. Along with that, you need penalties that hurt and are enforced for people who employ workers illegally.

    When I say “employers” I don’t mean big companies. Most illegals are working for small businesses and households. These are the folks who will be penalized for hiring them. It won’t be pretty for either side.

    If the problem were as easy to solve as some suggest, it would have been solved long ago.

  • jonro

    Is this your solution, David? We should carry around identity cards like they did in the old communist Soviet Union? That demonstrates that liberalism and conservatism join hands when it comes to excessive and obtrusive government regulation. We are losing some of the essence of what America means. Can you imagine the founding fathers embracing the idea of requiring identity cards to travel from state to state? We need a solution to the issue of illegal immigrants, but that isn’t it. We need a real policy in place and once we have that policy, we need immediate deportation of illegal immigrants who fail to follow those rules.

  • ktward

    In ’07, AZ passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act (HB2779), ostensibly to hold accountable–and sanction–employers of illegal immigrants. However, this law is so flawed that, in court challenge, it has brought together an unlikely coalition of organized business associations (including biggies like the USCoC/AZCoC, and the AZ Farm Bureau) and the ACLU/various Workers Rights groups: currently in SCOTUS limbo is Chamber of Commerce et al v. Candelaria.

    Albeit for different reasons, they all have a legitimate basis for complaint given the potentially disastrous economic consequences to both AZ biz and their employees’ rights.

    AZ’s response to this court challenge of their poorly crafted HB2779? SB1070. Neon evidence that states are not capable of drafting effective immigration law, even where there own state’s interests are concerned.

    That said, passing IReform through the Feds–where it legally belongs–has long been hamstrung by the Rightest GOP Senators. I don’t know about you, but I have no confidence that, post midterms, a larger ‘Pub minority will be any more interested in this issue than it was when it held the Majority. The only chance for IReform is to get it passed before November. (There is reasonable concern as to whether or not that’s even doable.)

    Got a GOP Senator? Write them, call them, camp out on their doorstep: tell them to check their ‘principled’ partisan drama at the door and, in the immortal words of Nike, Just.Do.It. Dems are already sharpening their pencils.