A group of five senators has sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging the agency not to follow through with a plan to expand its collection of biometric information.

DHS published A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register on Sept. 11 seeking comment on a plan to allow the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) component agency to expand its use of biometric information “as it conducts removal proceedings, processes family-based immigration applications, and vets immigrants seeking naturalization.”

“Currently, DHS reportedly requires only individuals undergoing background checks to provide biometric data,” the letter from the senators said. “But under the proposed rule change, DHS may require any ‘applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or individual filing or associated with an immigration benefit or request’ to ‘appear for biometrics collection.’”

“Consequently, this regulation would allow DHS to force both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens alike to share with the Federal government personal information about their bodies, a requirement that may violate constitutionally protected privacy and search and seizure rights,” the senators said.

The letter – signed by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. – goes on to detail concerns that the proposal would increase the types of data USCIS collects, and allow the agency to create detailed biological profiles of those in the immigration system.

“The scope, sensitivity, and invasiveness of the proposed DHS biometric data collection program would amount to an unacceptable escalation of government surveillance,” the senators wrote.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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