Thursday, March 1, 2007

Real ID and Bank of America

I'm now 7 months pregnant, so it took a while for something to come along to fire me up enough to post. But two NPR articles got me riled up enough to try to clear some things up.
First, Real ID. Chertoff himself listed 5 things that would be required for the new driver's licenses, one of which was a Social Security Number. There are thousands of legal aliens in the United States who do not qualify to get a Social Security Number. These are international students. However, the text of the law requires the SSN or proof that the individual does not qualify for a social security number. Chertoff just put thousands of people (who did not, or could not read the actual text of the law, buried beneath pages and pages of funding gobbeldygook) into a panic.
Next, Bank of America and the new no Social Security Number credit card. I bet you can see where I'm going already. Illegal immigrants are not the only market for this card. And here's where we get into the details. The SSN is a number issued for two specific purposes. 1) By the IRS to track tax obligations from employment, and 2) to administer Social Security benefits upon disability or retirement. However, it has become commonly used as a unique identifier from everything from university attendance, to credit checks, to obtaining cell phone accounts.
But there are thousands of people here legally in the United States who do not qualify for SSNs because they are not here for employment.
Again, the international student. We invite an individual to study in one of the best educational systems in the world, we may offer a scholarship to entice the best minds, and then say--but by the way, you can't rent an apartment because you don't have a credit history, and you can't get credit because you don't have an SSN, and the only way to get one is for employment, which you can't do legally.
I'm going to direct all my students to Bank of America. At least they get it--that the SSN is not proof of legal status, it's not even proof of work eligibility. It's just a number so that, if you work, the IRS can get your money!
Now to post the corrections to NPR...

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