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Dear Editor:
After 9-11 the world has changed completely. Real homeland security for the future may dictate that we establish a comprehensive national registry--a national ID card for all peoples residing within our borders, both citizen and noncitizen. If one has nothing to hide, one should not object to the necessity of national identity registration. I have no objection to it. We all register our automobiles and the county requires that I even register my dog. I do such things without complaint. At banks, airports, etc. we are asked for our driver's licenses for the purpose of identification and our social security number must be listed on most documents.

A driver's license is not issued for the purpose of national identification. The intent of a driver's license is to serve as a certification that the person who holds such a license (permit) has qualified to operate a vehicle on our public roads and highways,--no more, no less. Neither is a social security number issued to be a means of national personal identification. It is meant to be a Federal accounting number to keep tract of an individual's social security account. No card is more easily counterfeited than the social security card. This is attested by the fact that each year Social Security is confronted with hundreds of thousands of so -called "mismatches". For a relatively small sum, anyone can obtain a fraudulent social security card. They are frequently purchased when the dictates of employment require the possession of such a card and the applicant for the job has none.

One can rest assured that the terrorists, who wrecked such havoc on 9-11, were all supplied with passable social security cards as well as driver's licenses (which are more difficult to counterfeit) as well as passports and visas to facilitate their travels throughout our country. The requirement that each legal person within our borders have a valid social security card and that such a card must be a prerequisite for acquiring or renewing a driver's license does absolutely nothing to enhance homeland security. To believe so is like the thinking of the proverbial ostrich sticking his head in the sand to obsure danger. Does anyone think for an instant that obtaining a driver's license or a social security card posed a problem in any way for the terrorists of Sept. 11? With the enormous amounts of money available to them and with their cunning, they were able to obtain any identification needed. (In fact, they traveled back and forth around the world, in and out of the country with no problems--paper wise or money wise.)

Unskilled workers from Mexico enter the country clandestinely without papers because it is the only way they can get in. They come to escape extreme poverty and risk their very lives looking for nothing more than honest work at what is most often a menial job that no one else wants. None are terrorists; they are laborers. Yes, some of them have obtained fraudulent social security cards in order to secure that work when having such a card was a prerequisite to get the job. These account for some of the "mismatch" account numbers that Social Sewcurity comes across each year. Using a false card, these workers have social security taxes deducted from their wages knowing full well that they will never recoup any of this money paid into the system. They pay their income taxes, too, and are afraid to ever file an income tax return to reclaim what is legally theirs. They fear that if they file such a return, there may be a trace-back and they will be deported. They see the loss of all of this money as the price of keeping their jobs. Other undocumented workers settle for working for cash or for "money under the table" because they do not have a social security number. In the past, these workers have been able to obtain a legitimate driver's license without a card and secure liability insurance. Now, however, with more and more states (citing security) requiring the presentation of a social security card before a driver's license can be issued or renewed, the applicant finds himself "between a rock and a hard place". He has a choice: He can purchase a fraudulent social security number and so violate the law to get a driver's license or he can drive without a license (and insurance) and violate the law. Where and how does this enhance homeland security?

The Mexican government is offering national identity registration to its undocumented nationals in the United States. The Mexican consular offices here are issuing national identification cards, called "matricula consular", based on the presentation by the Mexican applicant of a certified Mexican birth certificate and one other photo ID card. Many banks and other institutions across the country are accepting this "matricula consular" as valid identification. While the card does nothing to legalize the holder's immigration status, it can be invaluable for opening a bank account, cashing a check, getting a library card, etc. It is a means of positive identification of the individual and as such contributes to security. It is hoped that such positive identification can open doors to obtaining and renewing legitimate driver's licenses. (Every vehicle operator in this country regardless of legal status should be certified as qualified and required to carry liability insurance.) Banks especially welcome the immigrants' accounts and one bank in the Columbus area alone now has hundreds of Mexican Immigrant banking accounts.

In Columbus, Ohio, this past November 9 saw lines that seemed endless of Mexicans queuing outside a Mexican mobile consulate that was in the city for a day to process Mexican passports and consulate IDs (matricula consulars). Some individuals had arrived as early as four o'clock in the morning on a bitter cold day to stand in line for hours to apply for their ID cards. Between seven and eight hundred applications were processed but many people were turned away due to lack of time. The consul promised to return frequently to the city until all applicants are interviewed. I am told these ID cards are being processed by the hundreds of thousands throughout our country. This "matricula consular" is proving to be such a benefit to the Mexican communities in the different states that the Association of Salvadorians (AsoSal), representing almost two million citizens of that country, is urging its home government to implement a similar ID program for its countrymen now working in the United States. Other Latin countries may follow suit. All of this can only contribute to our homeland security.

Richard E. Baer, DVM