Biden administration cancels expansion of biometric requirements for those seeking citizenship

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A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer takes a biometric facial scan of a traveler entering the Progreso Port of Entry in South Texas on Feb. 13, 2020. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Biden administration has scrapped a Trump-era proposal that would have required biometric facial scans and other identifying factors to those seeking to become U.S. citizens, including children, as well as Americans seeking to sponsor migrants.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Friday announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has withdrawn the proposed rule that would have expanded the department’s authority to collect biometrics from foreign nationals. It also would have made children under 14 eligible for collections and made collections a requirement for all seeking to become U.S. citizens or seeking any immigration or naturalization benefit, including sponsoring American citizens.

The proposal was filed in the Federal Register on Sept. 11, 2020, and sought to allow USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies to call any applicant or petitioner, sponsor or beneficiary, including U.S. citizens, for biometrics collection “without regard to age.”

It would have nearly doubled biometric collections — from 3.9 million to 6 million — and also would have allowed information collected “upon arrest of an alien for purposes of processing, care, custody, and initiation of removal proceedings.”

In making the announcement, DHS said it would continue to require biometric submissions “where appropriate” when pertaining to matters of national security, identity management, and fraud prevention.

The withdrawal of the proposed order “is consistent” with immigration related reforms issued in early February by President Joe Biden, DHS said. On Feb. 2, Biden signed an executive order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, which stated “consistent with our character as a Nation of opportunity and of welcome, it is essential to ensure that our laws and policies encourage full participation by immigrants, including refugees. … And that the Federal Government eliminates sources of fear and other barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing government services available to them.”

The biometric proposal would have allowed iris images, palm prints and voice prints to be collected, as well as DNA “to prove the existence of a claimed genetic relationship.” And the DNA would have been allowed to be stored for future use.

Shortly after the rule was proposed, the libertarian-conservative political advocacy group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, and the Hispanic advocacy group the LIBRE Institute filed a public comment opposing expanding the U.S. government’s power to increase biometric collections from millions of U.S. citizens, immigrants, and businesses who interact with the immigration system, warning it lacked proper limitations, and did not indicate how the data would be shared among government agencies or amount of time the data would be stored.

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