Thursday, September 5, 2019

Guest biometrics

Just before leaving town for the August recess, there was a special order hour on the House floor about immigration. One of the speakers, Representative Scott Perry, said, “I have been here for 7 years, and I have seen ‘comprehensive’ come up in healthcare, and I have seen ‘comprehensive’ come up in immigration. What I have learned is that when you put ‘comprehensive’ in front of a cause, it doesn't happen. It is political speak that says it is not going to happen because the room becomes divided, and everybody uses it as a political tool for the next election.”

This reminds me of a similar observation I made a while back in realizing the meaning of “reform.” Anything they want to “reform” is usually something they want to eliminate. Those in favor of “campaign finance reform” really just want to eliminate all campaign finance. Of course, they would say they just want to eliminate private campaign finance, and make everything publicly funded, but that's a formula for preserving the power of those who already have power. (More on this in a few weeks.)

Nonetheless, Rep. Perry: “What I want to do is, instead of trying to do comprehensive immigration reform, I want to focus on a small bite of the apple.” His small bite is “a guest worker program” in lower-skilled “agriculture, hospitality, and construction.” His focus that night was on agriculture.

One component of his program included biometrics. “As a person comes into the program, they get issued the guest worker identification card, which is called the GWIC card, and that will be embedded biometrics. We gave the list to the DHS to pick out what they think is necessary from facial recognition pictures, DNA, fingerprints, and retinal scans, all that they can choose from. We asked them to put enough of those biometrics in there so that card is secure.”

I understand that he wants a program with integrity. A problem is when that integrity is externally imposed, it has other consequences. Security, particularly when its purposes are overreaching, can lead to violence. Another problem is the assumption these people will never be anything more than guest workers. If, however, some of them go on to become citizens, we then have citizens whom the government can now biometrically track. A precedent for one citizen becomes a precedent for all citizens. As a citizen who does not want his government biometrically tracking him, I respectfully say, “No thank you.”

Biometrics is the opposite of Americanization. Americanization is about what you believe and what you have learned about the people of which you become a part. Biometrics is all about who you were born as and will always be.

Why are we trying to let people into this country based on the value they can produce? We believe in the intrinsic value and sanctity of every human life, no matter the value each can produce.

People want to come here because they seek freedom. This freedom produces economic opportunity to work for profit which is greater than the insufficient or sometimes non-existent opportunities where they are now. Freedom and work are good desires.

The purposes of government are to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. Immigrants are not looking for praise of their “lower-skilled” labor, but they're not looking to be punished for seeking and doing good things either.

National Tea Party leader Michael Johns criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for referring to “hard-working members of our communities and our country” writing, “if she is alluding to employment, that would actually represent their second unprosecuted crime.”

In a short-sighted sense he is right. We have laws about how people come to this country and how they get employment, and some people have broken both of those laws.

Taking the longer view, Should we have laws against people seeking freedom and a place to produce value? Are these evils to be punished?

Some conservatives embrace the variable standard of smaller government. They correctly cite an enlarged overreaching government as doing more harm than good. What's less clear is how we get from a government that has gotten too big back down to one of an appropriate size. “Starve the beast” may be a temporary spending strategy, but it does nothing about overreaching policies.

With respect to immigration, government has gotten too big—punishing good—and some conservatives are fully embracing this pushing for it to get even bigger. The rallying cry is to punish harder, measure more, create greater disincentives and deterrents, even if it means breaking apart families. If you don't go along with them, you're a traitor to your own employment cause.

I don't buy any of that. The American population should be 60 million people larger than it is today, but it's not because of abortion. People grow up and become productive, producing value.

If the problem is the welfare state, then fix that. Don't punish people for taking what we've offered to give them. I've never met someone who came to this country for the “free stuff.” If anything, our deportation system is the free trip back home for the holidays until they come back later.

If the problem is about terrorists coming to this country, then we need to teach them and show them that America is fundamentally about ideas, not images.

For as high as emotions have run on both sides of this debate, neither side has been particularly clear about what they're trying to accomplish, and even less about how this ties back to and is consistent with fundamental principles about who we are as a nation.

A good source for fundamental principles:

One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you” (Exodus 12:49).

“You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute” (Exodus 23:3).

“You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 24:22).

The same law for all is law that punishes evil.

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