The Trump administration has come up with a proposal that will dramatically increase the number of people required to provide biometric data for their immigration applications, while increasing the personal information requested by the government, such as eye scans, voice prints, DNA and photos for facial recognition should .
According to parts of a draft policy from BuzzFeed News, the government could request biometrics from immigrants who have received some benefit, such as a green card or work permit, at any time until they are US citizens for an ongoing “review.” “
If implemented, the draft rule would mean a massive shift in the collection of personal information from immigrants and US citizens by the Department of Homeland Security, and is likely to cause concern among privacy advocates and immigrants.
“It’s breathtaking,” said Ur Jaddou, a former senior official with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). “They are using too general language in the law to warrant a massive, unprecedented expansion to gather genuinely personal information that they seem to want to keep and use permanently. What is the reason for that? What is the problem you are trying to solve? “
The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment. However, a statement confirmed that a final version of the policy would be released for public scrutiny. The proposed rule “improves the review and verification process and reduces our reliance on paper documents and biographical information to prove identity and family relationships,” the DHS added.
“This proposed rule removes any confusion about the department’s use of biometric data and sets clear standards for how and why we collect and use that information,” Acting Deputy Secretary of State for Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said in the statement. “Using readily available technology to verify the identity of someone we are investigating is responsible for management. The collection of biometric information also protects against identity theft and thwarts fraudsters who are not who they say they are. “
However, Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Institute for Migration Policy, said the ordinance “is in line with what this administration wanted to do – to increase the” extreme scrutiny “of migrants passing through – but it is possible to go too far go and do an unnecessary check. That’s 10 steps too far. “
The additional biometric data proposed by the administration under the draft regulation could also help immigrants and those involved in their petitions to verify their identity more conveniently. At the same time, it will work towards the Trump administration’s vows to tackle suspected fraud in the immigration system.
Andrea Flores, assistant director of immigration policy for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that “collecting a huge database of genetic blueprints doesn’t make us safer – it will just make it easier for the government to monitor and target our communities and around us.” closer to a dystopian nightmare. “
“Trump’s goal is clear: to shut down the legal immigration system and make immigration as difficult as possible,” she added.
The draft proposal would have a direct impact on USCIS applications that process green cards and visas for family members, highly skilled workers, refugees and asylum seekers, and work permit documents, among others.
The policy cites the legal authority that allows DHS to require the collection of biometric data from individuals involved in an immigration grant and claims that expanding the collection would help strengthen the government’s ability to accurately track people to identify.
USCIS officials generally only need fingerprints, signature, and picture from overseas adults and anyone over the age of 14 hoping for certain immigration benefits such as temporary visas, green cards, and citizenship.
However, the draft ordinance would change the process to require anyone associated with immigration aid, from US citizen sponsors to applicants, to appear for the biometric collection, unless USCIS specifies otherwise. There would also be no age limit for collecting this information, so the government could obtain biometrics from anyone under the age of 14.
Additionally, the DHS would expand the types of biometric data that could be collected to include eye-iris image scans, handprints, voice prints and DNA in cases where a family relationship needs to be verified as per the draft. The expansion of the biometric data that could be collected is part of the agency’s efforts to keep pace with “technological developments” and enable agency officials to easily identify people on the phone or without physical contact.
Last year, the Trump administration allowed immigration officials to collect DNA samples from undocumented immigrants who are incarcerated.
The new draft regulation, which will be publicly commented on and will not go into effect immediately, would also open the door for immigration authorities to collect DNA samples from families in government detention to see if they are related. It would also authorize the biometric collection of people who were picked up by the DHS and are in the process of being deported from the US. Last year, border authorities launched a pilot program to remove DNA swabs from people suspected of faking family relationships.
The draft regulation notes that the government’s current approach is to move from requiring biometrics only in certain situations to a situation where biometrics is always required, unless the government determines that it is not necessary.
“This puts additional surveillance on a large population,” Pierce said.
In late 2017, Paul Hunter, former head of biometrics strategy for USCIS, told a trade journal at a conference that the agency wanted to add iris scans, voice prints and DNA to their biometric footprint, not only to speed up the processing of certain applications, but to increase the security of the immigration system, according to a report in FCW.
Privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have long noted problems with iris scans, suggesting that they can’t just be buggy in certain situations, such as: B. if a person has an inflamed eye, but also that iris scan databases created can be compromised, thereby putting highly sensitive information at risk. Police officers, including some sheriff’s departments, are already using iris scans.
If the proposal is put in place, it could potentially create even more barriers for immigrants if the USCIS falters financially. USCIS officials have warned since spring that the agency, which is funded primarily by fees, is running out of money due to a drop in filings during the pandemic and will need a $ 1.2 billion inflow from Congress.