(CNN) — The Biden administration will develop a new identification card for migrants that will serve as a single card to access immigration files and eventually be accepted by the Transportation Security Administration for travel, according to two Homeland Security (DHS) officials. , for its acronym in English).
The initiative is part of an ongoing effort by the Biden administration to streamline processes that have often led to confusion for immigrants in removal proceedings, and it comes at a time when officials are grappling with rising arrivals at the US-Mexico border.
Republicans have capitalized on President Joe Biden’s handling of the US southern border and have criticized the administration’s immigration policies, including reducing detentions and limiting immigration arrests to focus on immigrants. people who pose a security risk.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiative is also likely to draw criticism from some members of the Republican Party.
But officials say the identification, similar to a photo ID, will make it easier to hold them accountable in the immigration process. The card, called the “Secure Docket Card”, is expected to include name and nationality, as well as a QR code to access a new portal with relevant immigration information.
This portal is intended to provide an easier way to update information and contact federal authorities during the immigration process. The card is also expected to be provided to detained immigrants.
“50% of the problems immigrants have in being accountable in the process is because we don’t communicate well,” said a DHS official. “People are going to go through the immigration process smoothly, efficiently and humanely.”
The card can be used for identification, but cannot be used to register to vote. Only US citizens can vote. Over time, the card could also be used at airports for future travel, the official said. The TSA currently accepts some immigration documents as valid identification for travel.
“The ICE Secure Docket Card (SDC) program is part of a pilot program to modernize various forms of documentation provided to provisionally released noncitizens through consistent, verifiable, and secure identification. The secure card will contain a photo, biographical identifiers, and state-of-the-art security features for the mutual benefit of the government and non-citizens,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement.
“Details of the program are still under development, but a primary goal of the SDC is to improve current and inconsistent paper forms that often degrade quickly in real-world use. Depending on the outcome of the pilot program, ICE will explore the possibility of expand it,” added the spokesman.
A recent report of the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives mentioned the so-called ICE Secure Docket Card program and US$ 10 million allocated to put it into operation.
The report, which accompanies the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill for fiscal year 2023, describes the program as allowing “non-citizen access to immigration files and documents.”
The agency plans to pilot the identification card later in the year, the Homeland Security official said.
Jeremy McKinney, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), expressed optimism about the card.
“If ICE is moving in a new direction where eligible noncitizens can report their status, provide information about their location and address, receive case management support to help them understand and prepare for hearings, without the need electronic surveillance or jail cells, the AILA welcomes that approach,” McKinney told CNN.
The card will also supplement those who are enrolled in “alternatives to detention,” or ATD, according to the DHS official. An increasing number of people have been placed in ATD after a change in detention and the arrival of more nationalities that cannot be turned away under a Trump-era pandemic emergency rule.
Migrants released from government custody still undergo immigration court proceedings to determine whether they are allowed to remain in the country or deported. But the process can take years and involves multiple checks with various immigration agencies.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement monitors more than 300,000 immigrants with ATD, which can include GPS-enabled ankle monitors, phones or an app known as SmartLINK, according to the official.
The Secure Docket card would also allow authorities to verify whether an immigrant was released from custody “and/or charged with removal from the United States,” according to ICE.
Immigrant rights advocates have previously argued that the expansion of the alternatives to detention program creates new issues and raises significant privacy concerns over data collection.
Meanwhile, the development of a comprehensive portal for immigrants continues.
Jay Stanley, a political analyst who works on privacy issues at the American Civil Liberties Union (UCLU), noted that storing personal data in one place generally poses privacy risks.
“It allows bureaucrats to know more about you, to see more about you,” Stanley told CNN. “It can be on a case-by-case basis. It can be convenient for users in some circumstances, but the devil is in the details depending on what information we’re talking about.”