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US seeks to collect more personal information of noncitizens

Ben Fox
Associated Press

Washington — The Trump administration announced plans Tuesday to expand the collection of personal “biometric” information as part of its immigration enforcement.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would collect the data, including iris and facial scans, voiceprints, and in some cases DNA for those who seek to live or work in the country, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.

The Trump administration says it's planning to expand the collection of biometric information as part of immigration enforcement.

DHS did not release the proposed regulation or provide details. BuzzFeed News, which obtained a draft of the policy, reported earlier Tuesday that it included a provision that would require personal data from anyone applying for some type of immigration benefit, including those already in the country, and U.S. citizens sponsoring family members.

It typically takes several months for a new regulation to take effect after a comment period. This measure is likely to prompt legal challenges, as have most immigration measures introduced under President Donald Trump.

“This is a remarkable expansion of surveillance, especially the idea that immigrants could be called in at any point to give these biometrics,” said Sarah Pierce, an analyst with the Migration Policy Institute.

Applicants for citizenship already provide fingerprints and photos. Homeland Security said that under the new policy applicants could also be required to submit their DNA so authorities could confirm people are related when there is insufficient “documentary evidence.”

Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli characterized the measure as a way to improve the verification of people’s identities and “modernize” the collection of biometrics and other data.

“Leveraging readily available technology to verify the identity of an individual we are screening is responsible governing,” Cuccinelli said in a written statement. “The collection of biometric information also guards against identity theft and thwarts fraudsters who are not who they claim to be.”

The citizenship agency has struggled to maintain operations because of a budget crisis caused by a drop-off in legal immigration and increased costs.

The agency is supported by the fees that it charges people who apply to live and work in the country. Tightened immigration under President Donald Trump is a major factor in reducing the agency’s operating budget.