The idea of requiring Americans to carry some sort of tamper-resistant identity card has informally surfaced in policy circles. A report issued by the General Accounting Office in late March stated that employer sanctions provided by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act caused a "widespread pattern of discrimination" against people with a "foreign accent or appearance."
Representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Civil Liberties Union used this study to call for a repeal of the sanctions. But Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Gene McNary instead wants Congress to create an "employment identity card" that workers would have to present to employers at the time they are hired.
INS spokesperson Duke Austin contends that the card would not serve as a general form of identification. Instead he says it would ensure that "persons who have a right to work in the United States" are not discriminated against and would keep them from losing their jobs to illegal aliens. He also agrees with McNary that an agency such as the Social Security Administration, not the INS, should be responsible for issuing any employment card.
The usual supporters of tougher immigration standards haven't yet signed on. But Rep. Bruce Morrison (D.–Conn.), chairman of the House subcommittee on immigration, told the Los Angeles Times that the type of discrimination by employers cited in the GAO report could push an identity card proposal through Congress.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Card-carrying Americans".