But Republican opposition to big brother began to fade in the mid-2000’s. With growing concerns about domestic terrorist threats and the pain of illegal immigration becoming more impossible to ignore, President George W. Bush signed into law the federal “Real ID” Act in May of 2005. The law was intended, among other things, to impose specific “standards” on the individual states regarding the issuance of driver’s licenses and other state I.D. cards, as a means of tightening-up domestic national security. Yet despite the approval of the Congress and the President, well over half of all the legislatures in the individual states passed resolutions opposing the Real ID Act.
One of the states to oppose President Bush’s Real ID Act was – not surprisingly – the libertarian-leaning Arizona. Yet at about the same time that Arizona officially rejected Real ID, the state was also on the verge of becoming ground zero for the nation’s debate over illegal immigration. And this is when Republican elected officials seriously began to waiver on concerns about intrusive government.
Despite its opposition to Real ID, Arizona’s Republican-led legislature forced a “crackdown” on business owners that employed illegal immigrants, by requiring employers to register their employees with the federal “e-verify” website. Signed into law by then Democrat Governor Janet Napolitano, Arizona began forcing citizens to allow their federal government to collect even more personal data on them, in exchange for the privilege of interviewing for a job.
This is to say that many of the same elected Republicans in the Grand Canyon state who were horrified at President Bush’s violation of civil liberties, nonetheless had no problem pushing a statewide program requiring the fed’s to collect more of people’s personal information. And it wasn’t just Arizona – heavily Republican states like Virginia, Alabama, Utah and Georgia have all followed Arizona’s lead, and have adopted similar statewide laws.
Of course, nobody with a healthy skepticism about the “good intentions” of government believes that a national I.D. card system would solve our illegal immigration problem. Those of us who are not so enamored with the quick-fixes of politicians recognize that illegal immigrants would likely figure a way to illegally obtain the I.D. cards, and the system would thus be compromised.
But equally as important, imposing I.D. card and “e-verify” requirements on the citizenry is an unjust, and logically flawed means of policing the problem. In stead of focusing on the origins of illegal immigration – a porous border, an inept immigration system, and people who flagrantly violate our nation’s laws – such policies focus instead on law abiding citizens, and make them “pay” for the failings of others.
In 2003 Republicans were outraged when then-U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton proposed a national I.D. card program. Today, the Republican presidential frontrunner is campaigning with the idea.
Can America – and our civil liberties – exit the slippery slope?
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.