They’re Collecting More Data on Immigrants…How Long Until It’s Citizens?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hopes to collect greater levels of biometric data on people who intend to legally immigrate to the U.S., including iris scans, voice recordings and DNA samples. Right now, immigrants applying for visas, green cards or certain benefits must submit fingerprints and photographs with their applications.

Immigrants covered under the new rules would include relatives of U.S. citizens hoping to immigrate to the U.S. To implement the proposal, the government must expand its definition of “biometrics” so that the DHS can require ever-greater levels of biological and medical identification for individuals as the technology to process such data become available.

The costs of the new biometrics policy are unclear. The DHS has been pared down lately due to falling immigration applications during the pandemic and Trump administration policies.

What could possibly go wrong? How long will it be before the government requires the data on all its citizens? When even your television and your oven know everything about you, this shouldn’t be a surprise, but it’s still disappointing and an invasion of privacy. Eventually, the only people who won’t be fully tracked and controlled will be those who come to the U.S. illegally, although chances are, they will still manage to access U.S. monetary benefits.

Supposedly all of this is meant to somehow ensure the rest of us stay “safe,” especially from fraud and identity theft. According to Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary for Homeland Security, the policy will help screen out the “bad guys,” so to speak, until the immigrants become U.S. citizens.

Do they plan to throw out the data once these people become citizens?

The DHS can’t just enact the policy, it must follow a regulatory process that usually takes months and includes a public commenting period. And they’ll get comments, no doubt. Those who value their privacy seem just as likely as groups like the American Civil Liberties Union to despise the policy, although for very different reasons.

ACLU Deputy Director of Immigration Policy Andrea Flores commented:

“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.”

Assistant Professor of Public Policy Adam Scott Wandt of John Jay College of Criminal Justice notes that biometrics such as iris scans are more accurate than fingerprints. He also noted that they have the “added benefit” of being able to be taken without the individual’s permission or cooperation.

And there’s the tradeoff: you can be safe (within someone else’s definition of the rules) or you can be free.

Wandt also expressed concern that the “current administration” might use the data to “advance their agenda” because they have been “fairly hostile to immigrants.” The Trump administration has worked to reduce illegal immigration, has implementing “enhanced screening” procedures for refugees from countries hostile to the U.S. and has curtailed immigration deemed a “risk to the United States labor market during the economic recovery following the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak”: it has limited immigrants who might take jobs from black and other minority workers, those without a college degree and disabled people.

Also, as part of a pilot program of the DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in place since last year, DNA samples of people immigrating as a family have been taken to ensure that adult immigrants are not entering with unrelated children to get added protections under immigration law. According to a DHS official, the new policy would expand the level of biometric testing for such family relationships and for visa applicants who claim they have family members who are U.S. citizens.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. Do not take action based solely on this article and always consult with an appropriate healthcare professional. This article is purely for informational purposes.

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