Your Papers, Please…
For several years, I’ve thought that we should computerize immigration to a massive level, and then open the boarders up to anyone who wants to come in, provided they have the right papers on them 24/7. It’s would be an easy way to track all the people in the system, and we’d get the additional fun of all police asking everyone they stop, “Are you a US Citizen, and may I see your papers, please?”
Heh. Of course, it’s mightily unworkable, and somewhat creepy. That would never happen here, or would it? J.D. Tuccille wonders the same:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection insists (PDF) that “[a]ll Border Patrol checkpoints operate in accordance with the Constitution of the United States and governing judicial rulings,” and they’re correct, if you leave room for interpretation and some vigorous wiggling. The Supreme Court has ruled, in cases including United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, that “[a]utomotive travelers may be stopped at fixed checkpoints near the border without individualized suspicion, even if the stop is based largely on ethnicity.” The executive branch has interpreted “near” to mean “100 miles” which, I guess, is near enough if you work on a sufficiently large cartographic scale.
A hundred miles is a pretty big swath, if you count the coastlines. Tuccille says that ACLU data puts about 2/3 of the population in that range. He supposes that maybe we should all start carrying our passports in that area as a result. Honestly… I have mine with me nearly all the time. It sits in my computer bag as an alternate form of ID for a guy who is often on the road. (I’d note that I have other forms of government ID, but that showing a concealed carry permit to a TSA agent with a low sense of humor is not a way to make your flight… I try it occasionally when I have time just to see.)
And to the point, other than the fact that passports are a reasonable pain to get and can be costly, why wouldn’t we carry US citizenship proof everywhere? Sure, it’d be easier if they fit in a wallet, but I have few problems with needing to prove that I’m a legal resident. I have no particular beef with anyone here legally, and I get to deal with a variety of people who are likely not here legally on a regular basis since I live in an agricultural state where a large population of workers is of questionable immigration status.
So, what’s wrong with a little identification? Heck, maybe if we do have everyone carry around the papers and make it legal, we’d at least have new problems to solve.