National Immigration Forum

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Why We Need Immigration Reform: Senate Silliness

May 13, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin

funny face

Photo by Roger Smith 


One reason we need immigration reform is so that our elected representatives in Washington can get beyond their fixation on using immigration as a wedge issue.  Today, as part of credit card reform legislation in the Senate, Louisiana Senator David Vitter (R) offered an amendment to bar immigrants in the country illegally from obtaining credit cards.


He couched it in terms of preventing “illegal aliens” and terrorists from getting credit cards, but the overreach of the proposed amendment is illustrative of how some politicians approach immigration politics: I don’t care how many citizens and legal immigrants are affected if it gets my point across on illegal immigration, they seem to be saying.


To wit, Sen. Vitter’s amendment would bar companies from issuing credit cards unless one of the following four forms of ID were presented:


1.    A “REAL ID” compliant driver’s license or government ID card;

2.    A Social Security card;

3.    A photo ID issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS); or

4.    A valid passport issued by any country.


However, note that:

·        #1 does not exist yet.

·        #2 is a rare document these days (and one of the most easily forged documents issued by the U.S. Government anyway).

·        #3 is also a rarity in the world of immigration documents.  Few documents carry pictures and there is no single government issued document that says you are here legally or not.

·        #4 – most Americans do not hold passports, and allowing the use of any country’s passport would do nothing to limit terrorists from obtaining credit cards (let alone undocumented immigrants).


The Vitter amendment would require credit card companies to check applicants against a national terrorism watch list.  This would mean making the terrorism watch list public (or at least much more public than it is now) and giving any terrorist the chance to do their own vanity search.  Furthermore, the list is notorious for its inaccuracy, excluding the names of terrorists known to the government and including literally millions of names, many of them inaccurately or erroneously listed.


Word from a source in the Senate says that the U.S. Department of the Treasury weighed in on the Vitter amendment and indicated it would require each and every applicant for a credit card to do so in person.


The Vitter amendment failed 65-28.


Please, please, please support immigration reform this year so that our elected representatives can spend less time twisting themselves in knots and bending over backwards to invoke ever more punitive immigration-related rules that end up hurting everyone, whether an immigrant or not.


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