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The Immigration Bill does not create a 'biometric database of all adult Americans'

The Immigration Bill does not create a 'biometric database of all adult Americans'

Did you hear about how the proposed immigration reform bill will create, in the words of the headline writers at Wired, a "Biometric Database of All Adult Americans"?

The idea of the government creating a massive biometric database for virtually all adult Americans is indeed terrifying, and if the story was true, would be cause for genuine outrage.

Fortunately, Wired's assertion is false. Here are the facts:

1) Biometric data collection

Biometric information is being collected by the government for the purpose of determining provisional immigration status, but those affected are unauthorized aliens, not American citizens. As part of the process of transitioning to provisional status, immigrants will be required to submit biometric data: their fingerprints. Without fingerprints, the government would be hard-pressed to undertake the national security and criminal background checks that must be completed prior to granting unauthorized aliens the temporary work permits that accompany provisional status.

2. The "photo tool"

The immigration bill creates what is called a "photo tool" to add another layer of security onto the existing E-Verify program. If you've ever applied for a visa, passport, or federal work authorization, the federal government already has your photo.

But guess what? That isn't a "biometric" data set by any reasonable definition. As a Senate aide told me:

Biometrics typically refer to certain physiological traits that are distinctly unique to you, like your fingerprints, an iris scan, or your DNA that comes off on those small sticks that you swab on the inside of your cheek at the doctor's office. Photographs of you do not, in and of themselves, possess these types of traits that identify you based on your own unique physiological characteristics; thus, no one can say that they are in fact biometrics.

The Wired article is also aggressively misleading in stating that the photo tool will include "photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID."

Sorry, but no. That same aide told me the following:

The federal government can only access state driver's license photos if the state and the federal government enter into an agreement to share them; if the federal government were to simply mandate individual states to just turn this information over to the federal government, that would be unconstitutional under US v. Printz.

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