DHS plans expansion of biometrics, increased use of DNA for immigration

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced this week that it will expand its use of biometric data and DNA to verify family relationships during the immigration process.

The department said this week it will soon publish a proposed rule establishing new biometric data use protocols. Under the proposal, DHS would have the authority to require biometrics for any application or petition, a DHS official told CNN on Wednesday. Under current DHS regulations, biometrics are required only for applications involving background checks.

The new rule would give DHS officials wider authority for expanding technologies, ranging from voiceprints to iris scans, as well as technologies still in development, according to CNN.

“As those technologies become available and can be incorporated as appropriate, it gives the agency the flexibility to utilize them. And then it also would give the agency the authority down the road, as new technologies become available and are reliable, secure, etc., to pivot to using those, as well,” the official told the outlet.

The proposal would also eliminate any age restrictions for collecting biometrics. Under current regulations, collection is typically restricted to those 14 and older.

The department’s proposed rule would further allow DHS to collect DNA to confirm genetic relationships in cases where that is an eligibility requirement, CNN reported.

The department claims the results will be stored in immigrants’ official records but that raw DNA will not be kept. In some cases, the department would have the authority to collect U.S. citizens’ DNA.

Civil liberties and immigrant rights groups have sharply criticized the proposal. Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the American Civil Liberties Union, called it an “unprecedented” level of data collection.

“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,” Flores said in a statement.

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