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$46M for an ICE biometric database is too rich for US Representatives

$46M for an ICE biometric database is too rich for US Representatives

Democratic members of a powerful U.S. House committee voted Wednesday to more than halve President Joe Biden’s request for a proposed Immigration and Customs Enforcement biometrics database .

The White House had asked for $46 million in the nation’s fiscal 2022 budget to create a database for finger, face and iris biometrics, presumably captured from immigrants.

Democratic members of the House Appropriations Committee cut that request to $21 million.

It could be further changed before the $475 million overall funding bill for ICE’s Alternatives to Detention program can find its way to Biden’s desk. (The draft budget for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE, is $52.8 billion.)

How devastating that cut would be is difficult to say. Even $21 million to create a database is a lot of money, but tight-lipped Homeland Security obscures its projects’ parameters.

All Republicans in the Democratically controlled committee voted against the bill. Those speaking out made it clear that the only alternative to detention they wanted to see is the swiftest possible escort out of the country for each immigrant.

If the budget is approved, the alternatives program would continue to use biometrics, GPS and telecommunications to monitor selected immigrants, totaling an average of 140,000 a day, while they await hearings to decide if they stay.

According to an article in The Hill, 90,000 were in the program daily in 2020.

Those in the program can be required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet. ICE staff also can show up for unscheduled meetings with a person. Prospective immigrants also can qualify for video and audio check-ins before which, their identification can be verified through face and voice recognition.

Another $45 million would pay for research on border-control technologies, including remote sensing. The European Union continues to bat around the idea of remote biometric sensing, a topic that raises concerns that governments would give up scoops for secretly collecting information from people in favor of shovels.

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