FAS submits public comment against proposed DHS expansion of biometric collection affecting millions of immigrants and U.S. citizens

By and October 16, 2020

This week, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) submitted a public comment urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to withdraw its proposed rule that would expand the amount of highly personal biometric data collected from prospective immigrants, their families, and their employers.

On September 11, 2020, DHS issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would increase the range of biometric data the agency would collect from those applying for immigration and naturalization services. This invasive expansion would include the collection of DNA, iris scans, facial recognition data, palm prints, and voice signatures. It would not apply only to immigrants, but also anyone associated with the immigrants’ applications, including sponsors and close family members. This significant increase in the amount of personal information collected by the government would create an unreasonable burden on immigrants and U.S. citizens, increase operating costs for an already overburdened agency, and contradict the democratic principles on which this country was founded.

As an organization that represents scientists, FAS took a stand to protect those who have come to the United States seeking to improve their lives and their communities. The United States depends on its stellar reputation to attract scientists from all over the world, and this is vital in order to maintain the country’s predominance in artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies. As explained in our comment, the Center for a New American Security found that foreign nationals comprise more than half of America’s top AI talent base, and AI innovations will have a transformative impact on U.S. national security. Robert Work, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, emphasized that “U.S. leadership in setting global AI norms, standards, and measurement is essential to promote AI ethics, safety, security, and transparency in  accordance with U.S. interests.” This proposed rule would make it much harder for scientists to come to the United States and could even dissuade them from immigrating at all. This would significantly damage the country’s ability to compete economically and strengthen our national security.

To read the full comment, please click here.