A presidential commission led by former Rep. Barbara Jordan, a longtime civil rights advocate, wants to fight illegal immigration with a computerized national registry - an idea critics say smacks of Big Brother snooping.
Jordan, who chairs the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, said Wednesday the panel was recommending a nationwide registry based on Social Security numbers to help stem illegal immigration. That is the most controversial of the recommendations the nine-member com-mission plans to issue in a report next month.Even before Jordan made the proposal at a Senate subcommittee hearing, it brought a barrage of protest from groups representing Latinos, Chinese Americans, Jews and civil libertarians, who said it would be tantamount to a national identity card.
Jordan, a Democrat who represented Texas in the House in the 1970s, was a member of the House Judiciary Committee when it approved articles of impeachment for Watergate against President Nixon in 1974. She is now a professor of public affairs at the University of Texas in Austin.
Acknowledging the public criticism of the computer registry proposal in her Senate testimony, Jordan invoked her reputation as a defender of the Constitution.
"I've spent my entire career trying to protect the Constitution, the civil rights and the civil liberties of American citizens and people who are here lawfully," Jordan told the hearing of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and refugee affairs.
Jordan recommended that President Clinton immediately establish a pilot program in the five states with the largest immigrant populations to start the computer registry program.
The five states with the biggest immigrant populations are California, New York, Florida, Texas and Illinois.
Jordan said the panel also recommended:
- That illegal immigrants not be eligible for any federally funded benefits except for emergencies.
- That the federal government reimburse states for costs of imprisoning illegal aliens and possibly other services.