by John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute:
Here in Amerika, things are getting worse—not better—as the nation inches ever closer towards totalitarianism, that goose-stepping form of tyranny in which the government has all of the power and “we the people” have none.
Take what happened recently in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
On Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, immigration agents boarded a Greyhound bus heading to downtown Miami from Orlando and demanded that all passengers provide proof of residence or citizenship. One grandmother, traveling by bus to meet her granddaughter for the first time, was arrested and taken off the bus when she couldn’t provide proof of residency.
This isn’t is a new occurrence.
A year ago, passengers arriving in New York’s JFK Airport on a domestic flight from San Francisco were ordered to show their “documents” to border patrol agents in order to get off the plane.
With the government empowered to carry out transportation checks to question people about their immigration status within a 100-mile border zone that wraps around the country, you’re going to see a rise in these “show your papers” incidents.
That’s a problem, and I’ll tell you why.
We are not supposed to be living in a “show me your papers” society.
Despite this, the U.S. government has recently introduced measures allowing police and other law enforcement officials to stop individuals (citizens and noncitizens alike), demand they identify themselves, and subject them to patdowns, warrantless searches, and interrogations.
These actions fly in the face of longstanding constitutional safeguards forbidding such police state tactics.
Set aside the debate over illegal immigration for a moment and think long and hard about what it means when government agents start demanding that people show their papers on penalty of arrest.
The problem with allowing government agents to demand identification from anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant—the current scheme being employed by the Trump administration to ferret out and cleanse the country of illegal immigrants—is that it lays the groundwork for a society in which you are required to identify yourself to anygovernment worker who demands it.
Such tactics quickly lead one down a slippery slope that ends with government agents empowered to subject anyone—citizen and noncitizen alike—to increasingly intrusive demands that they prove not only that they are legally in the country, but also that they are in compliance with every statute and regulation on the books.
This flies in the face of the provisions of the Fourth Amendment, which protects the American people from undue government interference with their movement and from baseless interrogation about their identities or activities. The Rutherford Institute has issued a Constitutional Q&A on “The Legality of Stop and ID Procedures” that provides some guidance on one’s rights if stopped and asked by police to show identification.
Unfortunately, even with legal protections on the books, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the average American to avoid falling in line with a national identification system.
We’re almost at that point already.
Passed by Congress in 2005 and scheduled to take effect nationwide by October 2020, the Real ID Act, which imposes federal standards on identity documents such as state drivers’ licenses, is the prelude to this national identification system.
Fast forward to the Trump administration’s war on illegal immigration, and you have the perfect storm necessary for the adoption of a national ID card, the ultimate human tracking device, which would make the police state’s task of monitoring, tracking and singling out individual suspects—citizen and noncitizen alike—far simpler.
Americans have always resisted adopting a national ID card for good reason: it gives the government and its agents the ultimate power to target, track and terrorize the populace according to the government’s own nefarious purposes.
You see, it’s a short hop, skip and a jump from allowing government agents to stop and demand identification from someone suspected of being an illegal immigrant to empowering government agents to subject anyone—citizen and noncitizen alike—to increasingly intrusive demands that they prove not only that they are legally in the country, but that they are also lawful, in compliance with every statute and regulation on the books, and not suspected of having committed some crime or other.
It’s no longer a matter of if, but when.
You may be innocent of wrongdoing now, but when the standard for innocence is set by the government, no one is safe. Everyone is a suspect. And anyone can be a criminal when it’s the government determining what is a crime.
Remember, the police state does not discriminate.
At some point, it will not matter whether your skin is black or yellow or brown or white. It will not matter whether you’re an immigrant or a citizen. It will not matter whether you’re rich or poor. It won’t even matter whether you’re driving, flying or walking.
Eventually, when the police state has turned that final screw and slammed that final door, all that will matter is whether some government agent—poorly trained, utterly ignorant of the Constitution, way too hyped up on the power of their badges, and authorized to detain, search, interrogate, threaten and generally harass anyone they see fit—chooses to single you out for special treatment.
We’ve been having this same debate about the perils of government overreach for the past 50-plus years, and still we don’t seem to learn, or if we learn, we learn too late.
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