In a drastic move to facilitate legitimate travel to the US for immigrants and international visitors in a more secure way, the Trump administration has proposed to expand the collection of biometric information. In the proposal, the Department of Homeland Security seeks to revise the standard definition of “biometrics” in connection with the immigration application process. The proposal under consideration may require immigration applicants to submit iris scans, voice recordings and DNA samples in addition to fingerprints.
US citizens sponsoring immigration of relatives from their country of origin to the United States may have to comply with the government’s demand for intensive data collection as per the DHS proposal. The US government also seeks to accentuate the screening and vetting process with the reduced use of paper documents about potential immigrants’ familial relationships with their sponsors in the US.
Currently, those applying for work permits, legal permanent residency, US citizenship, or immigration benefits need to submit their fingerprints, photographs and signatures as per the USCIS policy for background checks. The new proposal seeks to expand the collection of biometric information about those over the age of 14 beyond fingerprints, photographs and signatures. The use of more personal information such as DNA, voice prints and iris scans beyond usual background checks is also proposed in the new policy.
The Department of Homeland Security’s collection of biometric details will be not only expanded but also modernized using futuristic technology towards ensuring consistent identity verification and identity theft prevention. The proposed policy is being described as invasive in nature as it is likely to repeal the current age limit on the collection of biometrics and require minors (below 14 years) to submit their biometrics.
Authorizing the collection and use of DNA samples to verify familial/genetic relationships is proposed in the new policy under consideration. Voice prints and iris scans are faster means of identity verification as explained by the Department of Homeland Security. Sarah Pierce, a leading US policy analyst, called the proposal “stunningly unnecessary.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has also despised the proposal and said that the Trump administration is “once again trying to radically change the US immigration system – which will consequently affect family-based immigration to the US”. The proposed collection of genetic blueprints may hold US citizens and legal permanent residents from sponsoring relatives for a green card. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of people will be subjected to continued surveillance. The worst concern is that the biometrics may be stored and used on a continuous basis even after an individual receives US citizenship.
In order to tide over the financial crisis, USCIS will also levy a fee on submission of biometric information by individuals going through the immigration process.