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FWD>Clinton and National ID
- To: CYPHERPUNKS <[email protected]>
- Subject: FWD>Clinton and National ID
- From: Dave Banisar <[email protected]>
- Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1993 16:44:08 EST
- Organization: CPSR Washington Office
FWD>Clinton and National ID
Copyright 1993 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
August 15, 1993, Sunday, Home Edition
SECTION: Business; Part D; Page 1; Column 2; Financial Desk
LENGTH: 1025 words
HEADLINE: JAMES FLANIGAN: BLAMING IMMIGRANTS WON'T SOLVE ECONOMIC WOES
BYLINE: By JAMES FLANIGAN
Immigration is a burning issue once again, with answers to perceived
coming thick and fast from public officials -- notably the governor of
California. But emotions outrun reason, and most people aren't even asking
Gov. Pete Wilson sent an open letter to President Clinton last week
demanding that the federal government control U.S. borders because
suffering the burden of illegal immigration.
Wilson also proposed tamper-proof identity cards for immigrants, denial
health care, education and even citizenship to children of illegal
and that Mexican soldiers join the U.S. Border Patrol in forcing people back
from the border at gunpoint.
Much of what he said, unfortunately, was demagoguery -- changing laws on
citizenship requires a Constitutional amendment, so lawyer Wilson's call was
But not everything Wilson said was grandstanding; on some matters, he had
point, although like almost everybody involved in the new debate on
his complaints were misdirected.
There are problems and social changes occurring in the U.S. economy, but
immigrants, legal and illegal, are not the cause of them. Yet illegal
immigration -- however great or small its actual numbers -- is a problem
because it breaks the law.
So we should solve our problems, not avoid them by making scapegoats of
To begin with, estimates vary incredibly about how big a "problem"
immigration is. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates
300,000 people enter the country illegally each year, but don't remain here.
Illegal aliens go back and forth between Mexico and the United States, says
The Clinton White House recently estimated that 3 million people live
illegally, from many nations -- China, Mexico, Ireland, Nigeria, India --
many parts of the country. That's less than half the widespread estimates,
by immigration critics, that more than 6 million illegals live in America.
Legal immigration has risen in recent years thanks to a change in federal
law, but at 1.5 million immigrants a year, the rate is only half that of the
1900-1910 historic peak. In California, however, immigration is at peak
which helps account for this state's anxious reactions.
The charge is that immigrants cost more in social services than they
contribute in economic benefit. But that's more an argument about taxation
immigration. A study by Los Angeles County found that immigrants pay
annually to the federal and state governments but little to the county,
provides hospital care and social services.
The county's point, and one reason for Wilson's outburst last week, is
the federal government should pay more. "The federal government gets a free
ride," says Georges Vernez, an immigration expert at Rand Corp. the research
firm. Which is true, but that's not the immigrants' fault.
The fact is, immigration answers needs in American society. If you don't
believe that, ask yourself why immigrants keep coming to a slow U.S. economy
and particularly to recession-bound California.
The answer is they come for work. Skilled people the world over have an
invitation. American hospitals are still recruiting nurses from the
England and Ireland; draftsmen are brought from Europe, software programmers
Unskilled people too find work. Consider the growing number of elder care
facilities in the United States, particularly those for elderly people
by Alzheimer's and other afflictions. They are staffed heavily by recent
immigrants who owe their unglamorous jobs to social changes in American
"We do not live in extended families, three generations in one house, as
people in poorer countries do," explains Professor Leo Chavez of UC Irvine.
may be close as families but geographically separate, and so there is a
need for elder care facilities and staff to work in them.
Couldn't low-skilled people from America's inner cities do such jobs?
they could, so why doesn't U.S. society train and educate people in its
cities and make sure they get such jobs? The answer is America's inner-city
problem is a complex one of social neglect. But making scapegoats of
won't solve it.
Make no mistake, "America should control its borders, because lawlessness
always a problem," says Julian Simon, of the University of Maryland, a
authority on immigration.
Trouble is, most suggestions for controlling the border are unacceptable.
Guns won't do it -- can you imagine the public outcry the first time U.S. or
Mexican troops shoot down defenseless migrants?
We could try an identity card, but surely our laws would demand that
everyone carry such a card. And a country that has a hard time imposing
minimal gun control won't soon have a national ID card.
One way to gain border control and economic benefit would be to set up a
system of flexible legal immigration that could bring people in when needed
variety of jobs. Immigration experts say this might be along the lines of
the bracero program that brought agricultural laborers from Mexico from
1942 to 1964. The bracero program had faults and was criticized as a
scheme, but a new system would have the advantage of being legal and less
Another solution, for our southern border, would be to work through the
American Free Trade Agreement to improve Mexico's economy and ease at least
economic pressures driving Mexico's people north.
The ultimate point, though, is we'll get nowhere blaming our problems on
immigrants, who have always come to this country just because it offers more
opportunity for individual development than any other nation on earth.
"Only in America," President Clinton said last week as he nominated
Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, who came from Poland as a child, to be chairman
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Shalikashvili will succeed Colin Powell, the son
immigrants from Jamaica. Only in America -- still true, and hopefully always
Copyright 1993 Reuters, Limited
August 13, 1993, Friday, AM cycle
LENGTH: 329 words
HEADLINE: CLINTON REPORTED LOOKING AT NATIONAL ID CARD
DATELINE: LOS ANGELES
President Clinton said in an interview published Friday that his
administration is studying the feasibility of creating a tamper-proof
identity card aimed in part at preventing illegal immigrants from using
government benefit programs.
Though civil liberties groups have strongly opposed similar plans in the
past, Clinton told the Los Angeles Times he now believed the idea "ought
But Clinton said he disagreed with a proposal presented earlier this
by California Gov. Pete Wilson for constitutional changes that would deny
citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.
He said he was also against Wilson's recommendation that emergency
treatment should be shut off to undocumented residents. Such a policy, he
suggested, would create more problems than it solves.
"None of us would tolerate just letting people die on the streets if it
to that," Clinton was quoted as saying.
In the midst of a growing anti-immigrant backlash nationwide, Wilson
called for sweeping reforms in federal laws to help stem the flow of illegal
immigrants into the United States.
But immigrant rights advocates accused him of trying to make Mexican
immigrants a scapegoat for his own failure to solve the state's crushing
Wilson's package included a proposed tamper-proof identity card, and
Clinton's disclosure was the first indication that it was under
Civil libertarians and even some conservatives have joined forces over
years to block the development of such a card, arguing that it would give
government too much control over individuals.
Clinton acknowledged that "a lot of immigration groups and advocates
said that any kind of identification card like that sort of smacks of Big
But he said the idea should be studied and that it is under discussion as
part of the health care reform effort being headed by First Lady Hillary
Copyright 1993 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
August 13, 1993, Friday, Home Edition
SECTION: Part A; Page 1; Column 5; National Desk
LENGTH: 1013 words
HEADLINE: CLINTON DIFFERS WITH WILSON IDEAS ON IMMIGRATION;
POLICY: PRESIDENT SAYS HE 'SYMPATHIZES' WITH GOVERNOR BUT THAT HE FAVORS A
'DIFFERENT TACK.' HOWEVER, HE REVEALS THAT ADMINISTRATION IS LOOKING AT THE
OF ID CARDS.
BYLINE: By DAVID LAUTER and JOHN BRODER, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
Making his first public comments on Gov. Pete Wilson's calls for
changes in the nation's immigration policies, President Clinton said
that he "sympathizes" with Wilson's concerns about the impact illegal
immigration is having on California "but I believe we ought to take a
The federal government must toughen its enforcement of immigration laws,
Clinton said, adding that his Administration is examining the feasibility
creating a tamper-proof national identity card which would be aimed, in
at preventing illegal immigrants from taking advantage of government benefit
programs, something Wilson also has advocated.
Civil liberties groups have strongly opposed similar plans in the past.
Clinton said, however, that he now believes the idea "ought to be
But, he said, "I don't think we should change the Constitution," as
has suggested, to deny citizenship for children born here to parents who are
the country illegally.
In addition, Clinton said, he disagrees with Wilson's suggestions to
off emergency medical treatment for illegal immigrants. Such a policy, he
suggested, would create more problems than it solves. He noted, for example,
that "it is probably very much in everyone else's interest" to provide
care to treat people who have communicable diseases.
Moreover, he added, "none of us would tolerate just letting people die on
street if it came to that."
Clinton's statements, in an interview with The Times on Air Force One
traveled here after meeting with Pope John Paul II in Denver, marked his
extensive public discussion so far of future policy options on immigration
issue that White House advisers say they believe could become one of the
politically difficult for his presidency.
His mention of a tamper-proof identification card was the first
of a potentially far-reaching policy change.
Groups advocating greater control of illegal immigration long have argued
that the flourishing market in phony documents allows widespread fraudulent
access to welfare and other government benefit programs.
But civil liberties groups, along with many conservatives, have joined
over the years to block any action toward developing a tamper-proof
identification card, arguing that it potentially would give the government
too much control over individuals and likening such cards to the internal
passports once required in the former Soviet Union.
Clinton acknowledged those arguments. "I know that a lot of the
groups and advocates have said that any kind of identification card like
sort of smacks of Big Brotherism," he said.
But, he continued, he believes that the idea should be examined and that
is under discussion as part of the health care reform effort being headed by
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Health care task force aides have discussed the likelihood that a reform
program would provide all Americans with "health security" cards that
guarantee health benefits to all. But so far, they have not widely discussed
possibility that such a concept would be linked with the more controversial
issue of a tamper-proof identification card.
Both in the interview and in his past statements on immigration, Clinton
has tried to toe a careful line -- advocating a tougher set of policies to
handle illegal immigration while assuring the Democratic Party's base of
in minority communities that he remains committed to continuing legal
immigration and the cultural diversity it brings.
Over the long term, Clinton said, he continues to hope that the
North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada will reduce
immigration pressure by improving the standard of living in Mexico and by
improving development in that country so that fewer people feel compelled to
migrate to the maquiladora zone near the U.S. border, where American-owned
factories offer employment.
In the shorter term, the only way to avoid having the immigration debate
damage the nation's social fabric, Clinton argued, is for the government
begin demonstrating to citizens that it is taking real action to enforce the
nation's immigration laws.
If the government can achieve that, he said, politicians will find that
rhetoric of calling for more extreme solutions may be of limited usefulness"
On the other hand, he warned, if the government is unable to "show some
discipline" in its control of illegal immigration, "I'm afraid the genie out
the bottle will be passion to shut off legal immigration.
"This country has greatly benefited from its immigrants for 200 years,"
Clinton said, and should not allow "aversion to illegal immigration" to
an "aversion to legal immigration."
California, in particular, will continue to benefit from its large
population, he predicted.
"There's no question that California will have a rebound," he said, once
state's huge defense and aerospace industries complete the economically
shrinkage brought on by the end of the Cold War.
Once that rebound begins, the President argued, the state will benefit by
"being able to interface with more societies" in Asia and Latin America by
virtue of its immigrant population.
But while he has been careful to praise legal immigration, Clinton has
eager to portray his Administration as having "taken a much more aggressive
posture on (illegal immigration)" than his predecessors did.
Clinton noted, for example, that his budget included additional money
strengthen the Border Patrol and to help California cope with the impact of
large numbers of illegal immigrants.
Although several border states are facing major immigration-related
California clearly "is getting the biggest hit," he said.
The President also pointed to his announcement earlier this summer of
to control smuggling of illegal immigrants into the country by boat and to
revamp the nation's troubled system for judging requests for asylum.