Could U.S. immigration reform include a national biometric database?

May 10, 2013 - 

Reports are emerging today regarding the possibility of a national biometric database of U.S. adults, following references to a “photo tool” administered by the Department of Homeland Security in immigration reform measures currently in front of the U.S. Senate.

According to a report in Wired published this morning, buried in the legislation – called Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act – is “language mandating the creation of an innocuously-named ‘photo tool,’ a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license of other state-issued photo ID.”

Under the new system, employers would have to cross-reference new hires in the database to ensure they really are who they claim to be.

Reported previously in, this provision is not completely unexpected, as American Senators John McCain and Chuck Schumer previously indicated their framework for immigration reform could require biometric information to check employment status.

The American government has also recently increased its focus on biometrics besides immigration and background checks, as the TSA’s decade-long (and on-going) project involving biometric Transportation Worker Identification Cards (TWIC) was recently called into question by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  

In a scathing report published this week by the GAO, it’s alleged that the TSA and United States Coast Guard didn’t properly record clear baselines and didn’t track malfunctioning TWICs in the system during a pilot test. As such, results filed to Congress by the Department of Homeland Security (which oversees the program) have now been called into question.

A recent Biometric Research Note, authored by BMRG lead researcher Rawlson King suggests the United States should adopt biometric IDs for Social Security and at the time of publishing, argued that it’s conceivable the Obama Administration is on-side.

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About Adam Vrankulj

Adam Vrankulj is an editor for His background consists of online news writing, editing and content marketing. Adam has written for, BlogTO and was the editor and curator for the nextMEDIA and CIX Source publications. He has a degree in journalism and is passionate about science, technology and social innovation. Contact Adam, or follow him at @adamvrankulj