Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) November 3, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans to expand the scope of biometric data it can require of foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. The proposal was published in the Federal Register on September 11, 2020.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within DHS, currently requires foreign nationals to provide photographs, signatures and fingerprints when filing for immigration benefits. Under the new rules, applicants will be asked to submit additional personal information including iris scans, palm prints, voice prints and facial images as part of the immigration application process. Other individuals associated with a petition filing, including U.S. citizens, are to provide biometrics as well. The proposed policy would also authorize the DHS to collect DNA to confirm a genetic relationship between family members.
“This is government overreach, a solution in search of a problem. Why does DHS need so many personal identifiers, such as iris scans, palm prints and voice prints? Are fingerprints and photos and signatures not enough?” commented Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “If the DHS concern is the identity of foreign nationals or U.S. citizens who are seeking an immigration benefit, then limit the personal intrusion and seek only what is necessary, and not grant the government a wish list of whatever it might like.”
Under the proposed rules, unless USCIS issues a waiver, any foreign national applying for or receiving an immigration benefit will be required to submit to biometrics screenings during immigration processing, including U.S. citizenship. Exemptions for minors will end as the draft policy seeks to remove the current age limit of 14 on biometrics data collection.
The proposed changes have raised privacy concerns. The biometrics data will have the potential to be stored indefinitely on government databases. The DHS can access the data for background checks, share it with law enforcement, and use it to verify an individual’s identity across various scenarios including during travel and initiation of removal proceedings.
The DHS claims the enhanced biometrics collection will improve its screening and vetting process. It will also enable quick identity verification without physical contact along with reducing reliance on paper documents. The notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register remains open for public comment until October 13, 2020.
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