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Immigration Debate
Photo: Thomas Arhelger
Nearly a thousand immigrants participated in a rally in downtown Philadelphia to show their impact as workers on the city. In addition, organizers suggested that immigrant workers call in sick for the day. Both documented and undocumented workers were asked to join the rally. Employers’ response to the rally was mixed, with some establishments asking non-immigrants to report to work to pick up the slack.

The rally was organized to call attention to a bill that has been passed by the United States House of Representatives and is now being considered by the Senate. If passed, it would be a felony to be in the United States illegally. In addition, anyone who helps illegal immigrants would be branded a felon.

If passed, the legislation would require all employers to use an electronic verification system that has been field tested by 5,000 employers. This bill would also authorize a federal study to identify ways to make Social Security cards tamper-proof. In order to achieve this goal, the cards would have to include some biometric data, leading possibly to what some have described as an “internal passport.”

The Identification Debate

Although supporters say that this law would not lead to a national ID system, critics say that these actions would lay the groundwork for an information database that would track U.S. residents. This is an idea that has consistently raised concerns in the past. For instance, in 1996 activists protested in Washington, DC, by wearing inventory bar codes.

The Senate Judiciary Committee handles immigration issues and began in early March to draft its version of the bill as a way to deal with undocumented aliens, estimated by some sources to be around 11 million. Those who are concerned about basic rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution note that the President has already included $135 million in the Federal government’s budget for 2007 to expand the verification system nationwide.

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