Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Is there actually any good reason for increased biometrics for US citizenship applications? Increasingly cameras are linked to biometric recognition systems. “Big Brother” is watching you.
The US already looks at your social media profiles. The “Thought Police” are in action to decide whether or not your views are acceptable for entry to the US. Have you expressed an opinion that the US does not like? Perhaps your US visa will be denied.
Apparently by next year surveillance cameras will reach one billion worldwide. It is expected that China will have the greatest number of cameras with about half of the total worldwide number. Has the technology dependence of most people made mass surveillance more acceptable?
Increased use of biometrics in surveillance will presumably make it easier to target certain people. James Campion of “The Aquarian” had the following to say about Trump’s America:
…Unmarked, fully armed agents tossing citizens into vans, macing and tear-gassing mayors and bystanders, arresting journalists and beating on middle-aged Navy vets is an excellent way of distracting the nation…
Many people in the UK also find this unacceptable. In the UK the human rights group Liberty won the world’s first legal challenge against facial recognition technology in August 2020 against South Wales Police. Liberty client Ed Bridge had the following to say:
"The police are supposed to protect us and make us feel safe – but I think the technology is intimidating and intrusive."
The Trump administration is planning to expand biometric information required as part of US citizenship applications. According to a draft policy, the US government is seeking to obtain biometric information from immigrants with green cards or work permits at any point up until their US citizenship is confirmed.
It seems the administration is looking to introduce serious vetting measures as part of the US immigration application process. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently requires biometric data from anyone aged 14 or over who applies for certain US immigration benefits.
Biometric information is limited to fingerprints, photographs and signatures, but under the potential change in policy, this could be expanded to include DNA, eye scans, facial recognition, photographs and voice prints.
Existing procedures could be modified with more people providing biometrics
It’s understood that existing procedures could also be modified, meaning that anyone who has received US immigration benefits, including citizenship sponsors, would need to submit biometric information – unless otherwise instructed by USCIS. The new policy would scrap the age limit too, with minors subject to submitting biometric information.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed an ‘imminent publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.’ The DHS claims that the change will ‘improve its screening and vetting procedures’ and ‘reduce dependence on paper documents to prove identity and familial relationships.’
DHS explained that voice, iris and facial recognition technology are quicker ways to verify identity without physical contact.
DNA collection may happen in future
The proposed policy would pave the way for DNA to be collected to verify family connections, with the DHS stating that confirming the genetic relationship between adults and minors held in DHS custody, protects the interests of children.
The Acting Deputy Secretary of the DHS, Ken Cuccinelli, said: “Collecting biometric information protects against identity theft and thwarts fraudsters who are not who they claim to be.”
However, policy analyst for the US Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, Sarah Pierce, described the move as ‘stunningly unnecessary.’
“They’re implementing this as if there’s some sort of rampant fraud going through the immigration system, with very little evidence to show for it,” Pierce told NPR.org.
New biometrics policy may lead to continued surveillance
Pierce argues that the proposed policy would subject millions to ongoing surveillance, while having a potentially ‘chilling’ effect on family-based US applications. Pierce said: “US nationals and legal permanent residents may not be willing to go through invasive biometric exams to sponsor relatives for a green card.”
To submit biometrics as part of US immigration processes, applicants will have to pay a fee. Pierce hinted that this is because of USCIS’ financial woes.
In a statement, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) blasted the proposed policy, saying: “The Trump administration is once again, trying to radically change America's immigration system by collecting unprecedented personal information and potentially storing it even after immigrants become citizens.”
ACLU’s deputy director of immigration policy, Andrea Flores, said: “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.”
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