The Department of Homeland Security has chosen to scrap a Trump-era policy to expand biometric data collection. Voice prints, DNA, and other forms of biometric data collection are a part of the screening process for anyone applying to enter the United States. Keep reading for more information.
What Is Biometric Testing?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses various screening methods for immigrants coming to the United States. Most immigrants are required to present identification and travel documents and undergo a criminal background check. During the screening period, the DHS performs biometric tests, which usually include collecting fingerprints, photographs, and signatures.
The purpose of biometric data is to build a record of information that verifies your identity so the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services can be sure that they are issuing immigration benefits to the correct person. So, what's the big deal with the new decision?
Currently, biometric testing is only for children and adults over 14. However, a last-minute policy proposed in September of 2020 would have dropped the age limit for biometric data collection to include children younger than 14. The policy would also have granted the DHS permission to include DNA collection, voiceprints, and eye scans.
Not only would the scope of testing be expanded, but the policy also required all immigrants applying for immigration benefits regardless of whether they had U.S. sponsors to submit biometric data. The only way an immigrant would be able to avoid intrusive testing would be with a government-issued waiver.
The policy would have changed the way the government collects biological information from immigrants and U.S. citizens. Many lawmakers, politicians, and advocates voiced concerns about how this would violate the right to privacy and change how much information the government should have on its citizens.
The Biden administration has been working tirelessly since its inauguration to dismantle restrictive Trump-era immigration policies that limit asylum and citizenship. Many regulations under former President Trump tightened limitations on immigration and made discriminatory practices law.
Now, advocates and immigrants are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief as the Biden administration continues to work toward a better future by fixing backlogs and other issues that plague the immigration system. However, while these steps are overdue, it's essential to pay it forward and continue to make citizenship and immigration accessible to those who need it most.
"This is only one step in the right direction. […]DHS will still need to propose rules that help end the already existing backlog and delay. While not requiring biometrics may potentially alleviate some of these delays, it is not clear that it will."
Attorney Javed points out the need for new comprehensive policies that protect immigrants' rights and make the immigration system more efficient. Biometric testing under the Trump administration contributed to massive backlogs and resulted in tens of thousands of lost work permits. Fixing these issues will take time, but things are moving in the right direction.
What Happens Now?
The Biden administration has proposed many new reforms to the immigration system, from creating pathways to citizenship to reintroducing a new and improved DREAM Act. These are undoubtedly exciting and necessary improvements, but millions of immigrants are still waiting for visas caught in the backlog.
Fixing these monumental issues will take a monumental collaborative effort between the Biden administration, the USCIS, and the Department of Homeland Security. While the next steps for biometric testing and screening are still in the works, there are some things the DHS can do now to remedy some of the issues with immigration in the U.S.
In Attorney Javed's words, "DHS must next evaluate how they can create procedures that decrease the burden on the agency's already limited capacity and finances."