On September 11, 2020, the Trump administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would dramatically expand government surveillance over immigrants and U.S. citizens sponsoring immigrants for lawful status. The proposed rule will have grave consequences if it is implemented, impacting anyone submitting various types of U.S. immigration petitions and applications, including those seeking asylum, family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, religious worker visas and other protections. The administration seeks to eviscerate programs Congress created to support survivors of domestic violence and trafficking, violating federal statutes in the process. NIJC submitted a public comment to express our strong opposition to the proposed rule and call for its rescission.
The mass surveillance proposed by this rule is unprecedented and wholly unjustified. Not only would the proposed rule deter survivors from coming forward to access benefits specifically created for their protection, it would put their lives at risk. The proposal even attempts to broadly criminalize children under the age of 14 simply because of their immigration status. The real purpose behind this proposal is not security, but to expand continuous surveillance of immigrant communities.
The administration’s announcement of this proposed regulation on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks illustrated how this administration continues to seek to manipulate public perception with xenophobic false narratives against immigrants. The major regulatory change also came as the COVID-19 death toll reached 200,000, with the federal response under intensified criticism.
Under the new proposal, the people NIJC represents would suffer the burden of enhanced surveillance, including victims of trafficking and children who would lose critical legal protections. Immigrants would be subjected to “continuous vetting,” permitting the government to demand biometric processing literally at any point along their path to citizenship. The proposal would require the collection of DNA and voice, iris, and face scans as well as other personal characteristics for virtually all immigration and citizenship applications. This sensitive and private information would then be stored in government databases, potentially forever.
NIJC strongly condemns this sweeping, unjustified rule that would expand biometrics collection and pose an invasive violation of privacy in U.S. communities. We condemn the rhetoric and misinformation endemic to this rule, which relies on misinformation and nativist and racist tropes. The proposals set forth in this rule echo programs and policies rolled out over the past three years that have dramatically harmed immigrant communities, and have been shown to be born of anti-immigrant animus. For these reasons, NIJC calls for rescission of the proposed rule.