DHS biometrics expansion proposal needs longer comment period, 100+ organizations urge

DHS biometrics expansion proposal needs longer comment period, 100+ organizations urge

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is being asked to allow a longer comment period for its proposed biometrics expansion rule by more than 100 organizations, including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

A 30-day comment period was provided by DHS for its proposal to expand the number of people in the immigration system whom biometrics are collected from, the modalities of biometrics collected, use DNA tests to confirm family relationships, remove age restrictions and change how good moral character is demonstrated for certain applicants. The changes are expected to cost the agency nearly $300 million a year, and increase the number of people DHS collects biometrics from each year by around 2 million.

The letter to Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Paul Ray is undersigned by 105 organizations, including Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, Save the Children, immigration advocates, law and policy advocacy groups, and religious groups.

The request cites to the length and complexity of the 328-page rule as the reason that meaningful feedback will take longer to produce, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter refers to fourteen House Committee Chairs recognizing the additional challenges to commenting on proposed actions created by the pandemic.

“Executive Order 12866 states that agencies should allow ‘not less than 60 days’ for public comment in most cases, in order to ‘afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment on any proposed regulation,’” the letter points out. “Executive Order 13563 states that ‘[t]o the extent feasible and permitted by law, each agency shall afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet on any proposed regulation, with a comment period that should generally be at least 60 days.’”

The two executive orders referred to, the first from 1993 and the second from 2011, establish the requirement for DHS to extend the comment period, according to the letter’s authors.

The letter writers also claim that the changes proposed in the Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) “will have devastating human consequences,” and that DHS has not provided concrete data about what background information is not collected under the current system.

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