On May 10, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) withdrew a proposed rule concerning the use and collection of biometrics in the enforcement and administration of immigration laws.

The proposed rule called for providing DHS with flexibility to change its biometrics collection practices and policies as needed. Included were expanding the use of biometrics beyond background checks and document production to include identity verification and management in the immigration lifecycle, enhancing vetting to prove identity and familial relationships, precluding imposters, and improving consistency in biometrics terminology.

DHS said it still supports some of these goals but “not in a way that conflicts” with Executive Order (EO) 14012, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” which instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify barriers impeding access to immigration benefits.

In response to the notice of proposed rulemaking published on September 11, 2020, DHS received more than 5,000 comments, most of them in opposition. Commenters mentioned immigration policy, privacy, and economic concerns, and said the rule was “unnecessary, offensive, an invasion of privacy, would infringe on freedoms, and [would] violate the respect, privacy rights, and civil liberties of U.S citizens, legal immigrants, noncitizens, victims of domestic violence, other vulnerable parties, and children.” Many commenters also said the rule was “overly broad, highly invasive, and would impose excessive monetary costs on applicants and result in administration delays,” DHS said.

DHS said it will analyze the entirety of the proposed rule in the context of the directive in EO 14012 and consider what changes may be appropriate. In the meantime, DHS will maintain its current biometrics collection practices and policies.

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