DHS Withdraws Proposed Rule Expanding Biometrics Collection and Use

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DHS Withdraws Proposed Rule Expanding Biometrics Collection and Use

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On May 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security withdrew a proposed rule titled “Collection and Use of Biometrics by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.” This proposed rule would have greatly expanded the personal data collected for immigration benefits, increasing processing times and costs.

USCIS has the general authority to require and collect biometric information from any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, or beneficiary over the age of 14. The current practice involves collecting fingerprints and photographs, which are then used to perform a background check.

The proposed rule, initially published on September 11, 2020, would have included the collection of palm prints, voice prints, iris images and DNA.  Additionally, the rule would implement the use of facial recognition software, a technology that has already been criticized of racial bias. All of this data would be collected from individuals regardless of their age, as the new rule eliminated the 14-year-old age limit restriction. The collected information would then be stored and used for the entire “immigration lifecycle.”

Following publication of the proposed rule, DHS received 5,147 comments from the public with concerns regarding this new invasion of privacy and violation of civil liberties. DHS considered these comments alongside President Biden’s Executive Order 14012, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.” The Order instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify and remove barriers that impede access to immigration benefits. As a result of the public concern and new immigration policy, DHS withdrew the rule.

This withdrawal hopefully represents one part of a larger and long-lasting trend of recognizing the humanity of immigrants to the United States.   

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