Immigration ID registry is proposed

August 04, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- A federal advisory commission proposed yesterday that the government establish a computerized registry of the names and Social Security numbers of all citizens and aliens authorized to work in the United States, so that employers could check the immigration status of job applicants.

In a unanimous recommendation, the nine-member advisory panel, the Commission on Immigration Reform, which is headed by Barbara Jordan, a former Democratic congresswoman from Texas, said the measures were needed to curb the hiring of illegal aliens.

The proposal has revived a long-running debate over immigration policy, a politically explosive issue in states such as California and Florida, where there are many illegal immigrants. The American Civil Liberties Union, Hispanic organizations, Chinese-American groups, Jewish groups and immigration lawyers immediately expressed concern over the proposed registry, saying its use could increase job discrimination against minorities

Nevertheless, some senators from both parties expressed support for the commission's recommendations at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee yesterday. They said it was a long-overdue step to discourage illegal immigration.

Doris M. Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, also welcomed the proposal for a registry, saying it was consistent with the Clinton administration's efforts to establish a single file of all foreigners authorized to work in this country.

The United States has never had a central register or roll of all its jTC people, though Social Security numbers have been issued to millions of citizens and many aliens who work or invest in this country, for tax and retirement purposes. The INS tries to keep records of foreigners permitted to work in this country, but agency officials acknowledge that the records are full of errors.

The commission said the registry could be established under current law, with no further action by Congress. It said the registry should have safeguards to prevent misuse of data in the new computer file.

But Vibiana Andrade, a spokeswoman for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, expressed the main concern of critics when she said she feared that "citizens and those immigrants who look or sound foreign will either be subjected to greater scrutiny or be denied employment."

The proposed registry would include data from the immigration service and from the Social Security Administration. Employers would have to check the registry before hiring people. The commission said it would not require people to carry identification cards.

Ms. Jordan, who was appointed by President Clinton, said he should take immediate action to form a national registry and test it in the five states with the highest levels of immigration: California, New York, Texas, Florida and Illinois. Those states have a combined population of more than 90 million, accounting for 35 percent of the nation's total.

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