The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that a proposal has been submitted by the Trump administration to dramatically expand the U.S. government’s collection of biometric information from immigrants seeking citizenship.
The new proposal would expand both the types of biometric data the government could demand and who they could demand it from.
Under the current system, anybody over the age of 14 applying for certain immigration benefits is required by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to provide biometric information in the form of fingerprints, photographs and signatures. The new policy proposes to expand the types of biometric identifiers the USCIS can collect to include DNA, eye scans, voice prints and facial biometric data.
According to BuzzFeed News, which was able to obtain a draft of the policy, the policy would also allow the government to request these biometrics from immigrants holding green cards or work permits at any point and as often as it wishes, until they become full U.S. citizens, while also doing away with age restrictions, meaning minors would also be included under the new rules.
Critics of the new proposal argue that it’s “stunningly unnecessary”, with U.S. Immigration Policy Program analyst Sarah Pierce commenting that “[t]hey’re implementing this as if there’s some sort of rampant fraud going through the immigration system, with very little evidence to show for it.”
The DHS justified the proposed new policy in a statement, saying that it will be a quicker way of verifying an individual’s “identity and familial relationships”, while reducing dependency on physical contact. Acting Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said the biometric data will serve to “[thwart] fraudsters who are not who they claim to be.”
On the matter of verifying familial relationships, the policy would also authorize the collection of biometric data from the family members of some applicants, a move that the DHS says is in the best interest of children and their well-being.
Pierce’s concerns that this will subject millions more to continued government surveillance and could dissuade innumerable family-based applications were echoed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which accused the Trump administration of continually trying to expand its powers to surveil vulnerable communities.
“Collecting a massive database of genetic blueprints won’t make us safer — it will simply make it easier for the government to surveil and target our communities and to bring us closer to a dystopian nightmare,” said Andrea Flores, ACLU’s deputy director of immigration policy.
September 2, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis