Biden admin withdraws plan to collect DNA, other biometrics from immigrants

Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF

The Biden administration rescinded former President Donald Trump’s plan to broaden various types of personal biometrics taken from immigrants including DNA, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Trump’s proposal would have allowed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials to collect biometrical data including voice prints and DNA from immigrants and their family members including minors, according to the AP.

The Biden administration withdrew the Trump-era proposal from consideration in an effort to cut down on administrative “barriers and undue burdens” within the immigration system, the AP reported. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will take biometrics “where appropriate,” according to USCIS.

Immigration officials will continue collecting fingerprints and photographs of people seeking U.S. citizenship and iris scans of those cause crossing the border illegally, the AP reported.

The Trump administration said the increased data could reduce fraud and improve security measures, according to the AP. Immigrants would also be able to check the status of their applications using voiceprint verifications.

“This proposed rule eliminates any ambiguity surrounding the Department’s use of biometrics, setting clear standards for how and why we collect and use this information,” then-Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement. “Leveraging readily available technology to verify the identity of an individual we are screening is responsible governing.”

Officials said DNA would have been used only to verify people were related family members and would not be stored when the proposal was introduced in September 2020, the AP reported. The proposal included the use of facial recognition to verify immigrants’ identities, according to the AP.

“This is a remarkable expansion of surveillance, especially the idea that immigrants could be called in at any point to give these biometrics,” Migration Policy Institute Analyst Sarah Pierce said of Trump’s proposal, the AP reported.

Critics of Trump’s proposed biometric collections said it would add unnecessary steps to a burdensome process and could discourage would-be immigrants who view the collection as intrusive from coming to the U.S., according to the AP.

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