Theory: Democrats don’t actually want to pass immigration legislation

Mike Riggs Contributor

Ezra Klein asks at the Washington Post if the national ID aspect of the Democrats’ proposed immigration law is a “game changer”:

Enforcement might be popular, but the public knows full well that it doesn’t really work. As things stand, the border is pretty militarized but the flow of illegal immigrants hasn’t stopped. By focusing on the employment prospects of illegal immigrants and forcing workplaces to use biometric identification, Democrats hope to convince people that they have a real strategy for ending the problem of illegal immigration. And if they can convince people of that, they think they can get a path to legalization for the existing community of illegal immigrants as a way to mop up the remainder of the problem.

The oddity of this strategy, of course, is that anti-immigration sentiments run highest among the same communities that are most opposed to national ID cards. Now, it’s also the case that if you’re going to support citizenship searches for people with Hispanic-looking shoes, it’s a bit odd to worry about an ID card to verify employment. But even so, without Republicans on the bill to give this strategy cover, it’ll be interesting to see whether the anti-immigrant right embraces the ID card as a way of staunching the flow of illegal immigrants or assails Democrats for trying to create a biometric police state.

The answer is that it’s a game killer. The arguments against a biometric ID card are copious–it’s invasive, it’s expensive, bureaucrats won’t possibly administer the program well–and unifying. After all, It was the ACLU, Janet Napolitano, and a 9/11 Truther/Republican state senator who killed Real ID in Arizona in 2008.

At the Examiner, Mark Hemingway jabs Democrats for criticizing the Arizona law, but then including a national ID system in the bill they unveiled yesterday, writing, “Let’s see, verification of immigration status following a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” is a bridge too far — but this plan doesn’t raise any civil rights hackles among Democrats?”

There’s a difference, of course, between giving state employees carte blanche to ask brown people for their papers and instituting a program that supposedly simplifies the process for verifying someone’s employment eligibility. But the overarching aim of both laws is the same: More state control.

My question is this: Did Democrats intentionally sabotage the bill by including the biometric ID language? Having proposed anything at all allows Democrats to say that they genuinely care about immigration reform (even though there’s plenty of reason to think it’s a political play). When the bill fails due to the Democrats’ far reach, they can cry foul and claim anti-reformers (who are really just anti-government/civil libertarian types) fought them tooth and nail.