Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Things heat up on the way to the roundhouse.

Everyone is getting ready for the legislative session. Most meetings I attend seem to have some reference to the session. I met today with immigrant rights groups who are very concerned that the governors office is proposing to fingerprint immigrants as part of the procedure to obtain drivers licenses. I found myself very concerned about this mainly because I wondered if this would be a precursor to the fingerprinting of all citizens in order to obtain a drivers license. Many other states are considering or have passed laws to begin fingerprinting and digitizing the prints as part of the requirements for obtaining drivers licenses. Some airports are setting up programs for Iris and/or fingerprints identification to speed up getting through security. Frequent travelers in Orlando have paid $80 to get their fingerprints and Iris scans done in order to speed up their access through airport security.

The Immigrant groups are under the impression that the New Mexico proposal will only include Immigrants, whether legal or illegal, in the program to fingerprint during the drivers license application process. They tell me they have tried to meet with the governors office but have yet to be successful. I was in support of the issuing of drivers license to immigrants primarily because it allowed us to have a valid Identification to look at when encountering them on traffic stops and similar situations. It also allowed them to get insurance on their vehicles which was very uncommon prior to their being able to obtain drivers licenses. I wonder if this proposal is a way for New Mexico to try and meet the federal government half way in the federal governments recent attempts to ban drivers licenses being issued to undocumented immigrants.

I remember being taken aback the first time I went into a bank to cash a check and they asked me to provide a fingerprint. While on one hand I guess if someone was taking money from my checking account I would be very happy to have a suspects fingerprint. However, on the other hand it was still odd for me to give my fingerprint. Early laws were designed to protect someone from hurting someone else or from infringing upon the rights of others. From the time seatbelt laws and other similar laws ( designed to protect you from yourself) came about there seems to have been a shift in the primary focus of the creation of laws. Don't get me wrong, seatbelt laws have saved many, many lives. However, we must realize that each step we take on items like fingerprinting or iris being used as identification, the more this type of identification will become the norm. The trial balloons on these programs are testing Americans willingness to accept this as the norm.

As I was typing this post I am watching the television news and they had a story on a New Mexico proposal to require D.N.A. samples on all felony arrests regardless of conviction. My Bernallillo counterpart Sheriff Darren White (Republican) is promoting the idea based on his contention that that same sample could be used to find the accused innocent as well as guilty. Once again you would think that I as a law enforcement officer would be all for this. I don't know, right now we require consent or a search warrant for a procedure like this. Is saliva a personal property and is taking a sample of it without a warrant a taking of property? Is this unconstitutional? Sounds like questions for our friends the lawyers.

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