Wachovia might have packed its bags and Bank of America may be on its way out, too, but, never fear; a new industry seems to be cropping up in the Carolinas in the wake of economic disparity. It is the fake ID business, and it’s not just for under-age kids who want to buy beer anymore.
Consider some of these statistics: In recent years, North Carolina was deemed to be one of the top five states with the fastest growing Hispanic population. A study completed in 2006 commissioned by the Mayor’s Office of Charlotte estimated the number of undocumented immigrants in North Carolina to be over 50,000. North Carolina also became one of the first states to have a handful of counties sign up to be involved with ICE’s 287g program. Put it all together and what do you have? A rapidly increasing population of undocumented immigrants who are being increasingly targeted by local police, even for minor infractions, such as speeding, no operator’s license, or failing to signal, and who have no means of identifying themselves to authorities.
The solution? Fake IDs. Labs have been discovered across the state, and already the number of arrests from January – October of 2009 has far outrun the number of arrests in 2008 for the entire year. And that’s only the folks who have been arrested.
It’s a huge problem, if you think about what you can accomplish with only a driver’s license: cashing checks, procuring another form of ID, boarding an airplane. And it’s yet another reason why immigrants, with or without documents, should be able to obtain some form of state-issued ID. In a sense, immigrants are backed into a corner, with no options but to self-deport (ha!), find a low-paying job that allows them to live below the radar, or obtain some sort of ID, however falsified, in order to lead a productive life. Hey, if I was in their shoes, I’d probably do the same thing.
But it’s a national security issue. Do we really want tons of people we can’t identify? Do we want people flying our airlines and opening bank accounts under false names? Of course not. But given the state of the system, that has become the new reality. Driving is just a means of transportation. It’s no more a privilege than taking the subway, if you think about it. It is so much more important to be able to identify everyone than to worry about granting unnecessary privileges to undeserving undocumented immigrants. Because, let’s face it, you can’t protect the country if you don’t know who’s already here.