DebateFilter: Arguments *for* the federal Real ID program
April 21, 2010 9:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm participating in a public debate in a few weeks, the topic of which is, "Resolved: The Real ID Act should be repealed." Despite my personal views (which are pretty strongly liberal), I've been assigned to argue against the resolution, meaning I have to support the Real ID act.

This debate is just for entertainment purposes, but I'd like to put in a good showing. What are some sound, logical arguments for keeping the program alive? How can I defend against the arguments for repealing the law?

Here's a link to the wikipedia page on the act.
posted by crookedgrin to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Having a robust national ID system would make checking work authorization a lot easier for businesses, so it would help with immigration enforcement and possibly an eventual guest worker program.

Also, I think the best argument in favor is that your social security # is already a de facto national ID #. The problem is that the system is not robust and is prone to abuse and exploitation, so, if we already have a half-assed national ID anyway, why not make it a secure one?

Finally, you can argue that if people are concerned about the government having a centralized store of info about you, that modern information technology makes it pretty easy for the FBI, CIA, NSA, or whoever to compile that information anyway. You'd not be giving away any information that isn't already known.

I think my second point is the most powerful, personally.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:01 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe if you'd tell us why you have a problem with it, it'd be easier for us to come up with counterarguments.

Also, the act looks pretty elaborate -- do you want reasons why each different provision is specifically useful, or is it just the general idea of a national ID you're concerned with?

If it's the latter, I don't see what the problem is or what being "pretty strongly liberal" has to do with it. We already have state ID cards, and this doesn't seem to be a problem. We already have national ID cards, as Aizkolari pointed out. Other countries have national ID cards and don't seem to have any problem with it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:09 AM on April 21, 2010

You could do worse than to read the congressional debate on it, to get a sense of the arguments put forth by its supporters in Congress.

The original REAL ID Act was H.R. 418 in the 109th Congress, and House debate on it was done on Feb. 9-10, 2005, as recorded at pp. H437-471 and H527-566 in the Congressional Record. (First page of each days' debate linked; unfortunately the CR online has an obnoxious each-page-as-an-individual-PDF format. Also, the first six pages or so on the first day appear to be about a parliamentary point regarding whether the act constitutes an unfunded mandate which might prevent it being considered at all; once that is resolved the substantial debate appears to begin on p. H442.)

H.R. 418 passed the House but was never taken up by the Senate. However, the text of it was later inserted into H.R. 1268. House debate on this was on Mar. 15-16, (H1436-1500, H1514-1526) but since in this case it was part of a larger bill the debate about the REAL ID part of it gets mixed in with debate on other parts of the bill. Senate debate on the bill was Apr. 11-15 and 18-21, but this probably has little of relevance since the version reported out of the Senate Committee on Appropriations appears to have struck the REAL ID part of the bill. The REAL ID language was restored by the conference committee and passed by both houses.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:52 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe find some statistics related to the amount of fraud in various programs (medicare, social security, voting, etc) and make the case that the card could reduce/eliminate that, and therefore SAVE OUR TAX DOLLARS!!! (who can argue against saving tax dollars??)

You already give a lot of information to your state government when you get a driver's license. This act just makes each state's information more uniform. As we move forward into a more global economy, it makes sense to have this information at the Nation level instead of at the State level.

Also, I'm sure you know it, but that wikipedia page you linked has a link to a list of arguments for/against.
posted by CathyG at 10:54 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Other countries have national ID cards and don't seem to have any problem with it.

This strikes me as a useful strategy. Compulsory national ID has a bad rap partly because people associate it, consciously or unconsciously, with the internal passport system used by the Soviet Union, or the passbooks they had in South Africa under Apartheid. If your opponent is smart, he's going to remind people of these associations. Your job is to provide people with a different set of associations that let them support national ID without cognitive dissonance. You want them to hear "Identity document" and think "Oh, like they have in happy liberal democracies like Sweden!" and not "Like the eeeeeevil secret police are always asking for in old spy movies."
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:56 AM on April 21, 2010

Argue that asking someone information that can easily be looked up (e.g., what's your mother's name or what street did you grow up on or what high school did you graduate from) is not a good way to identify people.

Argue that you don't have a right to be anonymous.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:03 AM on April 21, 2010

Best answer: Argue that identity theft is an increasing problem, and this is the way to combat it.

Argue that it would improve everyday life - for example, simplifying airport check-ins.

Argue that it would help people who share a name with someone on a government watch list, because watchlists could specify individuals, rather than names which cover lots of people. Say that by reducing watchlist false positives, it will help fight terrorism.

Argue that many identity records are already being kept, and that combining them and computerising them centrally will cut down on government inefficiency, and redundancy between states - make some jokes about queues at the DMV.

Argue that it doesn't contain or give the government any more private information than a passport, and nobody has a problem with passports.

Argue that it only makes ID meet standards that it should have met anyway.

Argue that biometrics and iris scanning are already used for tourists visiting the US, and where's the outrage about that? If a biometric database is fine for visitors, what's the problem with one for everyone else?
posted by Mike1024 at 11:33 AM on April 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Actually, I'm not against a national ID program, personally; however, the debate resolution requires defending this specific act, not the general notion of a national ID. The act itself was passed under somewhat dubious circumstances (attached to another bill which was considered "must pass"), and it was an underfunded mandate. At least, that's my understanding from my research so far.
posted by crookedgrin at 12:34 PM on April 21, 2010

Another angle to consider is that the implementation of the Act has been riddled with technical setbacks, as have numerous other post-9/11 credentialing programs. You may be forced to defend the Act against charges that it just won't work the way it's supposed to.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 1:32 PM on April 21, 2010

For instance, the Transportation Worker Identity Credential. It's supposed to be a standard form of ID issued to all people, government and otherwise, who work in ports -- stevedores, sailors, and truck drivers mainly.

Should be pretty easy, but it turned out the card readers they designed back in 2005 or so became easily corroded from saltwater. Apparently nobody thought of that first. Not sure what the status is now.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 2:03 PM on April 21, 2010

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