The Biden administration is working on a new ID card to be issued to immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border that would allow U.S. immigration officials and migrants faster access to their records. The card would one day be accepted by the Transportation Security Administration for travel within the United States.
A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told VOA that the card, called the Secure Docket Card, is part of an effort to modernize and streamline the paperwork given to immigrants when they are processed at the southern border with a consistent, verifiable and secure map. .
ICE is completing the required pilot notification to Congress, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is requesting $10 million to launch the initiative in fiscal year 2023.
The new ID card will include a photo, name, nationality and a QR code to access a new portal with the immigrant’s information, allowing the non-citizen to log into a website – still in development – to schedule and verify ICE reporting requirements and hearing dates. with the immigration court.
“Program details are still being worked out, but a primary goal of the TCS is to improve the current, inconsistent paper forms that often degrade quickly in the real world,” a spokesperson for the agency wrote. ‘ICE in an email, adding that the agency is planning to launch a pilot program by the end of the year.
Is the DDC only for migrants at the US-Mexico border?
Initially, yes. But the ICE spokesperson said the agency would consider expanding it depending on the success of the pilot program.
The administration hopes to secure the necessary congressional approval before the November election.
How will this benefit migrants and the government?
According to ICE, when an immigration officer encounters a non-citizen with an SDC, that officer can easily verify the card through DHS systems and determine whether the migrant is seeking asylum or possibly subject to of an eviction order.
For non-citizens, the card’s QR code will allow them to access a website where they can schedule ICE reporting obligations and check court dates with the immigration court.
“[I’m] cautious optimism. … If a card makes [the immigration] more efficient process, it will make it easier for the client. This will make the government’s job easier. And it will literally demonstrate what we have known all along, which is: if you give our clients facing removal the tools to comply, they will comply,” said Jeremy McKinney, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association ( AILA).
But Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, shared concerns about the privacy risks when it comes to storing personal data in one place.
“It allows bureaucrats to know more about you, to know more about you,” Stanley, who works on privacy issues, told CNN.
Congressman Jeff Van Drew, a Republican from New Jersey, said he was drafting legislation to stop the Biden administration from issuing ID cards to asylum seekers.
Van Drew told Newsmax, a conservative news site, that the only thing migrants should be able to access is “a return trip across the border”.
“So I’m making legislation that says no US tax dollars, or for that matter, no US dollars can be spent on these cards,” he said.
The card will eventually be used as a form of identification at airports for travel within the United States. Currently, the TSA accepts a Notice of Appearance (NTA) as valid identification for travel. The NTA, issued by ICE, orders a person to appear before an immigration judge on a specific date to continue immigration proceedings in court.
Will the card complement the Alternatives to Detention Program?
Yes. Under current law, depending on the situation, ICE “may or must” release non-citizens, U.S. immigration officials said, and the legal documents provided to non-citizens vary widely, on a case-by-case basis. Before migrants are released, asylum seekers must convince a federal immigration officer that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country because of their race, religion, nationality, their membership of a particular social group or their political opinions.
From there, they must undergo immigration proceedings to determine whether they will be allowed to remain in the United States or be deported. Due to an immigration backlog of more than 1.6 million cases, the asylum process can take years and asylum seekers must register with various US immigration agencies.
The TCS would make it easier for immigrants to check their court date and inquire with immigration officials, a requirement of the Alternatives to Detention program.
What is the Alternatives to Detention Program?
Alternatives to Detention (ATD) is a program that releases immigrants from the custody of border agents and places them in a specific monitoring program. It targets vulnerable immigrants, such as unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, families with young children and nursing mothers.
Persons subject to mandatory detention are not eligible for ATD, which is generally crime-related.
More people have been placed on ATD since the Biden administration backed away from a Trump-era decision to close the program for asylum seekers.
Under the Trump administration, everyone was detained, including families who were often held in family detention centers pending court hearings.
Currently, ICE allows program participants to use anklets for GPS location monitoring, smartphone apps such as SmartLink for facial recognition and GPS location monitoring, and reporting via phone calls.
According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research institution at Syracuse University, people often remain under ATD surveillance for several years. As of July 16, 296,250 people were being monitored through ICE’s ATD programs.
What are the first thoughts on the new initiative?
Some immigrant rights advocates have expressed concerns about the security of private data, constant surveillance and the effectiveness of the government’s move to digital for immigration purposes.
“That’s why I’m cautiously optimistic. … Government and technology haven’t always been a good mix,” AILA’s McKinney said. can’t use it, or it’s not user friendly. And the second concern, of course, is privacy.
But the ACLU’s Stanley said case-by-case identification can be convenient for users in certain circumstances.
“The devil is in the details depending on what information we’re talking about,” he said.
Individuals released from U.S. custody at the border under conditions must notify the U.S. government of certain situations such as change or address or if they plan to relocate to another U.S. state than that provided during initial processing . Sometimes migrants need prior authorization from ICE to move to a new state.
“But that doesn’t give ICE permission to track a person’s every move. So, of course, the immigrant community will always worry about ICE using these cards to literally track people,” McKinney added. .