The controversial immigration-reform bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this week is expected to be considered by the Senate in June. Many see measures contained in this bill, such as a strong E-Verify and a "photo tool," as a means to control unlawful immigrants' access to unlawful employment. I worry that they go too far.
I think there are better ideas that err on the side of individual privacy while still strengthening our borders. We should scrap a national identification database and pass immigration reform that secures the border, expands existing work-visa programs and prevents noncitizens from access to welfare. These simple ideas will eliminate the perceived need for an invasive worker-verification system and a government citizenship database.
I am against the idea that American citizens should be forced to carry around a National Identification Card as a condition of citizenship. I worry that the Senate is working to consider a series of little-noticed provisions in comprehensive immigration reform that may provide a pathway to a national ID card for all individuals present in the United States — citizens and noncitizens. These draconian ideas would simply give government too much power.
Forcing Americans to carry around an identification card to affirmatively prove citizenship offends our basic concept of freedom. Wanting to avoid a "papers please" culture in our country is also why conservatives oppose federal universal gun background checks. We oppose such measures not because we don't believe in common-sense rules or regulation — but because we are wary of giving the federal government this kind of centralized power over our daily lives.
I am against government lists of those who own or have transferred a firearm for the same reason I oppose any pathway to a national ID. I don't think that government should have the awesome power of monitoring the legal activities of American citizens. That is not a proper role of the federal government — or any level of government, for that matter.
I am opposed to immigration reform that contains the photo tool that is contained in the Interior Enforcement and Employment Verification System title of the bill. In the name of preventing the "unlawful employment of aliens," the Senate legislation has a provision that "enables employers to match the photo on a covered identify document provided to the employer to a photo maintained by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services database." This, too, is troubling.
This sounds like a national picture database of all citizens, where the states house the picture and the Department of Homeland Security is the clearinghouse for worker verification. A national database of citizens raises the question: What activities will require someone to present their papers? A national ID allows more power to gravitate to Washington and a greater likelihood that power will be abused.
I will fight to remove the photo tool from this legislation because I think it will become a national ID. We already know the federal government is rife with false positives on the no-fly list and the National Instant Check system for gun buyers. Why would we be foolish enough to think that a massive database of all citizens would not have the same problems on a grander scale?
We have a Second Amendment that must be protected. We also have a Fourth Amendment that must be protected. Citizenship means that the government is supposed to protect our rights, not take them away. We must have stronger borders, but there's no reason we can't have better security while respecting constitutional limits and liberties.
In the past week, we have witnessed examples of the Obama administration spying on the media and Internal Revenue Service discrimination against Tea Party free speech. People around the world always have dreamed of emigrating to America, the Land of the Free. It is our job to make sure our country stays that way.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.