Border Face Scan Rule Stirs Civil Rights Teams to Press Biden

The Biden administration could come up with a proposal to scan the faces of travelers at the US border and at airports, even if a coalition of civil rights groups wrote to the Homeland Security Secretary “serious risks to privacy and civil liberties “Warns Alexander Mayorkas.

“We want to make it very clear to the administration that we do not believe that they should proceed in any way, shape or form with this proposed regulation. It should just be withdrawn, ”Ashley Gorski, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said in an interview.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened the eleventh hour comment deadline for the Trump administration in February, proposing the creation of face-scanning rules for non-citizens to capture Americans’ biometrics as well. The proposed rule could allow the DHS to store some images for up to 75 years.

Biden’s DHS reopens the Trump Era facial surveillance rule for comments

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer uses facial recognition technology to screen an international traveler entering the United States at Miami International Airport on February 27, 2018.

The new comment period, which ends March 12, took immigration supporters by surprise. The groups interpret this reopening as a sign that the Biden government will introduce mandatory facial recognition of non-US citizens at US airports, seaports and at the border, Gorski said.

When the rule reopened, CBP noted that Congress “must implement a biometric entry / exit system that is consistent with records, including biographical and biometric data of non-US citizens entering and exiting the US.”

The agency made no indication that it intended to remove the rule from the exam in response to questions sent by email. The agency plans to respond to any comments on the rule made during both the Trump and Biden administrations and will adjust the final rule as needed, a CBP spokeswoman said in an email.

Privacy concerns

The proposed rule would violate privacy and civil liberties and disproportionately hit immigrants and color communities, wrote the group of more than 20 civil and immigration groups. It also goes beyond what Congress intended for biometric collection and advances a program that has not been tested well, they added.

“We have very serious concerns that a government agency has this power, especially CBP, as it contains records of systematic abuse of people in CBP custody,” said Gorski, citing guidelines on family separation, among other things.

Chair of Homeland Security Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) In a December comment on the rule, warned against making it final as written under the Trump administration.

CBP has gone beyond pilot programs for facial scans at airports only, but the rule would extend to border checkpoints and seaports where pilot programs are continuing, Thompson said.

“CBP should suspend the proposed rule change until a biometric exit solution for land and sea ports is identified,” he wrote.

The agency should remove language in the proposal that would expand CBP’s authority to use travelers’ photos beyond identification for verification purposes. That expansion would be “inappropriate” and would require Congressional approval, Thompson wrote in December.

Thompson is confident that his concerns will be addressed and that CBP will make significant changes to the rule before it is finalized, said an adviser to the committee, although the agency made no such promises to the committee.

How to contact the reporter about this story: Shaun Courtney in Washington [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at the [email protected];; Sarah Babbage at the [email protected]

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