As the 2020 presidential elections quickly approach, Donald Trump is working to expand on campaign promises of pushing an anti-immigrant agenda. In its latest attack on immigrants, the Trump administration proposed to collect DNA data from not just detained migrants but U.S. citizens and others who sponsor immigrants. The proposal looks to not only define the term biometrics but expand biological information the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) currently collects to include eye scans, voice prints, and palm prints, the department’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) said in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on Friday.
The proposal intends to “provide DHS with the flexibility to change its biometrics collection practices and policies.” At the time of the proposal’s initial announcement, DHS officials expressed that the move would allow the department to utilize new technologies as they become more available, CNN reported. The proposal states that “any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or individual filing or associated with an immigration benefit or request, including United States citizens, must appear for biometrics collection without regard to age unless DHS waives or exempts the biometrics requirement.”
It also proposes that regardless of age anyone arrested or in the “care” of the department be subject to DNA collection. The proposal directly affects applications taken by USCIS, which processes green cards and visas for family members, workers, refugees, and asylum seekers. By collecting biometric data from those who wish to sponsor immigrants the administration claims it can verify whether the genetic relationship of the individuals is legitimate in addition to checking criminal histories.
This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has attempted to collect DNA from immigrants and those supporting them. Last year the administration argued it had the ability to collect DNA from migrants detained by authorities under a 2005 law, Reuters reported. In May, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began a pilot project to collect DNA samples from undocumented immigrants who were arrested and in February it began fingerprinting 14 and older unaccompanied migrant children in immigration shelters. The agency claimed both moves would better protect both migrants and the country from what it called “fraud” and help solve cold cases. These prints were collected and shared with law enforcement agencies.
The proposal was first reported by BuzzFeed News on Sept. 1 and has received great criticism since. “Collecting a massive database of genetic blueprints won’t make us safer—it will simply make it easier for the government to surveil and target our communities and to bring us closer to a dystopian nightmare,” Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement, according to BuzzFeed News. “Trump’s goal is clear: to shut down the legal immigration system and make immigration as difficult as possible,” she added.
While it is unclear whether the administration will finalize the rule, the proposal calls for public comments until Oct.13. Despite Trump’s consistent xenophobic policies and speech, recent polling research has found that Americans have become more welcoming of immigrants and refugees since 2016, Daily Kos reported. As more Americans see through Trump’s lies and blatant hate for immigrants, we can only hope America makes the right decision this November.