U.S. immigration authorities are planning to issue photo ID cards to immigrants during deportation procedures in an effort to reduce the use of the card and help people stay up to date on required meetings and court hearings, they officials said.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement proposal is still being drafted as a pilot program and it was not immediately clear how many the agency would issue. The cards would not be an official form of federal identification and would indicate that they are to be used by the Department of Homeland Security.
The idea is that immigrants can access information about their cases online using paper instead of paper documents which are cumbersome and can fade over time, officials said. They said ICE officers could also carry out card checks in the field.
“Switching to a secure card will save the agency millions, free up resources and ensure that information is quickly accessible to DHS officials, while reducing the agency’s FOIA backlog,” said an ICE spokesperson. in a statement, referring to unsatisfied public requests for agency documents. According to government data, National Security receives more Freedom of Information Act requests than any other federal agency, and many of these involve immigration documents.
The proposal raised a number of questions about what the card could be used and how safe it would be. Some fear that the program could lead to the tracking of immigrants awaiting their day in immigration court, while others suggest that the cards could advertise migrant smugglers to try to induce others to make the perilous journey north.
The Biden administration is seeking $ 10 million for the so-called ICE Secure Docket Card in a budget proposal for the next fiscal year. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the money would cover the pilot or a larger program or when it would start.
The administration has come under pressure due to the increase in the number of migrants trying to enter the country on the southwestern border. Border patrol agents detained migrants more than 1.1 million times from January to June, nearly a third more than in the same period of an already high 2021.
Many migrants are rejected due to restrictions related to COVID-19. But many are admitted to and detained as their cases are baked by immigration courts or are released and required to periodically check with ICE officers until a judge rules on their cases.
Those most likely to be released in the United States are from countries where public health deportation is complicated due to tense cost, logistics, or diplomatic relations, including Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
In shelters, bus stations and airports along the US-Mexico border, migrants carefully store their cards in plastic folders. These are often the only documents that must pass airport checkpoints to their final destinations in the United States. Often cards with dog ears can be essential for getting around.
An immigration case can take years and the system can be confusing, especially for immigrants who know little English and may need to work with a number of government agencies, including ICE and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which issue permits and green cards. US immigration courts are controlled by the Department of Justice.
Gregory Z. Chen, senior director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the migrants erroneously went to ICE offices instead of to court for scheduled hearings which they consequently lost. He said that as long as the privacy of immigrants is protected, the card could be useful.
“Whether the ICE will use this new technology to allow non-citizens to check in with the ICE, or to report information about their location and address, and then to receive information about their case, where their hearings could be in court, what the requirements might be for them to comply with the law – it would be a welcome approach, ”Chen said.
It was unclear whether Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration would accept the cards for airport travel or whether private companies would consider them valid.
The United States does not have a national photo ID. Instead, residents use a variety of cards to prove identification, including driver’s licenses, state ID cards, and consular ID cards. What constitutes a valid identity document is often determined by the entity trying to verify a person’s identity.
Talia Inlender, Deputy Director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles Law School, said she was skeptical that using a card to access electronic documents would simplify the process for immigrants. , particularly those who surf the system without a lawyer and wondered if the card has a technology that could be used to increase government surveillance of migrants.
But having ID could be useful, especially for migrants who need to travel within the United States, Inlender said.
“Many people are fleeing persecution and torture in their countries. They don’t show up with government paperwork, “Inlender said.” Having a form of identification to be able to move around in daily life has the potential to be a useful thing. “
This has worried some Republican lawmakers that the cards could induce more migrants to come to the United States or try to access benefits they are not entitled to. A group of 16 lawmakers sent a letter to ICE last week raising questions about the plan.
“The administration is reportedly planning another reckless policy that will further aggravate this ongoing crisis,” the letter read.