Trump Pushes To Reap Biometric Data From Immigrants, Americans

Six million would-be U.S. immigrants face expanded collection of their biometric data, including iris scans, palm-, and voice-prints, facial recognition images, and DNA, under a proposed federal rule. The Department of Homeland Security also for the first time would gather that data from American citizens sponsoring or benefiting from a visa application. Bloomberg Law reports: Years in the making, the biometrics immigration rule has garnered more than 160 comments since its Sept. 11 publication. The 30-day comment period closes on Oct 13. A final version could be in place by Inauguration Day. Immigration and privacy advocates have voiced concerns over who will have to comply with the new requirements, why President Donald Trump is making this push so late in his term, and what it means for a federal agency already claiming a lack of resources.

The 300-plus-page plan updates current biometrics requirements so that “any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or individual filing or associated with an immigration benefit or request, including U.S. citizens, must appear for biometrics collection without regard to age unless the agency waives or exempts the requirement.” The DHS estimates an additional 2.17 million new biometrics submissions will be collected annually, an increase from the current 3.9 million, under the rule. The DHS already collects fingerprints from some visa applicants. The new rule would expand that biometrics-gathering to iris images, palm- and voice- prints. The agency wants authority to require or request DNA testing to prove familial relationships where kinship is in question. The DNA data could be stored indefinitely, under the proposed rule.

The DHS essentially has until Dec. 20 to review and respond to public comments and draft a final proposal, said Doug Rand, who worked on technology and immigration policy in the Obama White House and then joined the Federation of American Scientists. “They’re really running out of time. And the fact that you’d put out a final regulation on such a far-ranging new policy that touches the lives of millions of people, you’re opening up to huge legal vulnerability because any plaintiff can point to the comment period of only 30 days.”