Proving Identity

53 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2016 Last revised: 8 Apr 2016

Date Written: March 22, 2016


United States law, over the past two hundred years or so, has subjected people whose race rendered them noncitizens or of dubious citizenship to a variety of rules requiring that they carry identification documents at all times. Such laws fill a gap in the policing authority of the state, by connecting the individual’s physical body with the information the government has on file about him; they also entail humiliation and some degree of subordination. Accordingly, it’s not surprising that we’ve almost always imposed such requirements on people outside our circle of citizenship -- African-Americans in the antebellum South, Chinese immigrants, legally resident aliens. Today, though, there’s reason to think that we’re moving closer to a universal identity-papers regime.

Keywords: identification papers, freedom papers, geary act, draft card, slacker raids, smith act, alien registration, vagrancy, biometrics, ssn, real id

Suggested Citation

Weinberg, Jonathan, Proving Identity (March 22, 2016). Wayne State University Law School Research Paper No. 2016-09, Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Weinberg (Contact Author)

Wayne State University Law School ( email )

471 Palmer
Detroit, MI 48202
United States
313-577-3942 (Phone)
313-577-2620 (Fax)


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