Groups file request for information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requesting information about current protocols and constitutional safeguards for the use of biometric machines

March 28, 2017

Washington DC -- Mijente and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requesting all information related to its use of mobile fingerprinting machines to check individual for immigration history and criminal records, particularly during home and street immigration raids.

“With newly available technology, ICE agents have the freedom to profile anyone on the street and demand they submit to being fingerprinted, a process that usually doesn’t take place until after arrest.”
— Tania Unzueta, Mijente

The request was filed after identifying problematic use of the fingerprinting units during raids throughout the country, use of racial profiling, and violation of people’s civil and constitutional rights.

"Immigration agents are showing up at people’s doorstep, demanding they submit their bodies to scanning, and taking people into detention with little regard for due process or people’s civil rights,” explained Tania Unzueta, Mijente’s Policy Director. "With newly available technology, ICE agents have the freedom to profile anyone on the street and demand they submit to being fingerprinted, a process that usually doesn’t take place until after arrest.”

“Communities have repeatedly raised serious concerns that DHS is conducting widespread and indiscriminate raids based on racial profiling through the use of biometric technology…”
— Julie Mao, NIPNLG

“Communities have repeatedly raised serious concerns that DHS is conducting widespread and indiscriminate raids based on racial profiling through the use of biometric technology. The proliferation of surveillance and biometric technology in community raids exacerbates the unconstitutional enforcement practices of DHS,” stated Julie Mao, attorney at NIPNLG. “Through this FOIA request, we hope to shine a light on DHS’s little known biometrics program and rein in rogue agency practice.”

The request for information was filed with the FOIA Offices at DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) respectively, and include information on:

  • The history of the use of biometric devices for immigration purposes and any plans to expand their use;

  • Any policies that relate to civil rights or civil liberties investigations conducted by ICE, the DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties office, or third parties, including complaints of racial profiling, indiscriminate fingerprinting, immigration sweeps, or collateral arrests;

  • Any policies that safeguard personal privacy collected by the devices or applications, standards of confidentiality, the types of data collected using the devices, and procedure or protocol for the sharing of that information with other federal or local law enforcement agencies;

  • The number of people detained during immigration enforcement actions, region, number of biometric devices, and use by national or regional field offices; and

  • Information regarding the accuracy of the data contained accessed by biometric units.

Per FOIA regulations, the federal government must produce relevant records in a reasonable amount of time. Organizations are closely monitoring government response to the request for information.

Download the FOIA request » (PDF)

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Mijente is a national political home for Latinx and Chicanx grassroots organizing.

The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild promotes justice and equality of treatment in all areas of immigration law, the criminal justice system, and social policies related to immigration.