Monday, May 20, 2013

Biometric database of all adult Americans hidden in immigration reform

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”

For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it to purchase health insurance.

“The Social Security number itself, it’s pretty ubiquitous in your life,” Calabrese said.

David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with the ACLU’s fears.

“The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities,” he said. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”

For the moment, the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee is focused on the parameters of legalization for unauthorized immigrants, a border fence and legal immigration in the future.

The committee is scheduled to resume debate on the package Tuesday.


Immigration to Germany soars as workers fleeing crisis-hit southern Europe join waves of Poles, Bulgarians and Romanians

Immigration into Germany has soared as people from crisis-hit southern European countries join waves of Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians seeking jobs and homes in the EU's economic powerhouse.

Official figures show immigration reached a 17-year high, a sign of what Britain can expect when borders are opened to workers from new EU countries in January next year.

And as in the UK, they have fuelled a debate about new strains on the Germany's welfare system and the long term consequences for the country's economy.

In all, 1.08million people moved to Germany last year, according to the Federal Statistics Office, a 13 per cent increase on 2011.

The numbers reveal how the eurozone's debt crisis is reshaping the fabric of European society as well as individual national economies.

The biggest increases came from people moving from the stricken economies of Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, but the most people came from Poland (68,100), while 45,700 came from Romania, and 51,500 from from Hungary and Bulgaria.

'Until recently, Germany was an emigration country, but now people are flocking to Germany in search of work, as their home countries are mired in recession,' said Wolfgang Nagl, a labour market expert at the Ifo institute.

The number of people moving to Germany from Spain jumped 45 per cent in 2012 from a year earlier to 30,000.

Some 42,000 people moved to Germany from Italy - a 40 per cent spike - while the number of immigrants to Germany from Greece and Portugal rose 43 per cent for each country, highlighting an acceleration which started in 2010 after the Greek economy imploded.

Strains are already being felt. In Duisburg, an old industrial city on the Rhine, Roma people are accused of turning neighbourhoods into rubbish-strewn ghettos.

Mayor Soren Link claims Romanian and Bulgarian migrants are causing havoc, committing crimes and costing his authority close to o15million a year to house, feed and police.

He claims prostitution and robberies have spiked since the EU's latest members began arriving last year.

'We are massively affected,' said the mayor, confirming the fears of the Association of German Cities which recently warned of 'social unrest' in many places because of the economic refugees.

On the other hand, many of those from southern countries are welcomed because they contribute to the economy.

According to the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, immigrants are on average 10 years younger than German natives and more likely to have a university degree.

'Germany is reaping the measurable rewards of free movement thanks to skilled immigrants from other EU countries. This has received too little attention to date,' said the group's chairman Christine Langenfeld.

Immigration from Slovenia was up 62 per cent as the transition period toward free labour movement ended in May 2011. The number of Hungarians moving to Germany rose 31 per cent.


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