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Biden wants more immigration face biometrics, others in party want much less

Biden wants more immigration face biometrics, others in party want much less

Too little transparency and accountability for a U.S. face biometric check-in program for immigrants has some Democrats upset with the White House.

According to The Guardian lawmakers last month told the Department of Homeland Security to cut the number of immigrants channeled into the department’s intensive supervision appearance program.

Almost 200,000 participants are subject to ankle bracelets, GPS phone-tracking apps and random check-ins, sometimes using facial verification systems, while awaiting a court date to plead their case before a judge. Monitoring options also include phone calls analyzed with voice biometrics.

The people are surveilled to make sure they show up to court when summoned.

However, President Joe Biden this week announced plans to expand the two-decade program, according to reporting by The Guardian.

Some in Congress charge that DHS has drawn up plans to double the number of people being digitally scanned, monitored and tracked.

The program was originally described as a better alternative to holding asylum seekers and others in detention centers for months while their claims are investigated. It also has been referred to as a relief valve for the country’s struggling immigrant-vetting infrastructure, though there is debate on that point.

Some see the program as punitive.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib and 24 other congresspeople in February wrote to the Homeland Security Department, saying immigrants are needlessly surveilled for years under the program.

A number of those people, according to the correspondence, do not warrant inclusion in the program.

Others see a biometrics tool (SmartLink) with few public controls on how it and the data it gathers are used

The Guardian has reported that private contractor BI Inc., creator of SmartLink, runs the program for the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency. BI is a subsidiary of private-prison operator GEO Group.

Getting an accurate accounting of data collection, storage and deletion is, apparently, difficult. It is not clear how exactly the biometric data is shared.

Unless federal biometric privacy regulations and laws change, it might be years before the program can be analyzed. According to another Guardian story, the government signed an exclusive $2.2 billion, five-year contract with BI.

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