The Legislation To Protect Dreamers From Deportation Might Come At The Price Of High Tech Spying

In December 2017, President Donald Trump announced an end to Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The New York Times reported on this, adding that 800,000 young adults brought to the United States illegally as children qualify for this program.

This was and is one of Donald Trump’s most controversial decisions, so it seems. Many have criticized the maneuver. In a post published on his official Facebook page, former President Barrack Obama called it “cruel and wrong.”

Those who want to protect Dreamers from deportation can try and do so this month. Congress will vote, but what exactly will they vote on?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an international non-profit digital rights group, argues: “If Congress votes this month on legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation, any bill it considers should not include invasive surveillance technologies like biometric screening, social media snooping, automatic license plate readers, and drones. Such high tech spying would unduly intrude on the privacy of immigrants and Americans who live near the border and travel abroad.”

On January 25 the Trump administration published a framework for immigration legislation; White House Framework on Immigration Reform & Border Security. The framework, among other things, mentions unspecified “technology” to secure the border.

The Trojan Horse Bill

A bill recently filled by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, however, indicates what this could mean.

The Goodlatte-McCaul bill would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to collect biometric information from people leaving the country and expand an existing program of facial recognition screening.

dreamers facial screening

This could, according to the EFF, lead to a host of problems; government agencies might misuse it and data thieves might steal it. Apart from that, they claim, facial recognition has accuracy problems.

The same bill would authorize social media snooping of visa applicants from countries the government deems “high-risk.” Social media information that the government captures is stored in a system called “Alien Files.” Coupled with the government’s efforts to build an AI system meant to comb through social media information looking for signs of criminal intent, this would be a significant invasion of privacy, the EFF argues.

Apart from biometric screening and social media snooping, drone surveillance is another concern. The Goodlatte-McCaul bill would reinforce and expand drone surveillance. It does not in any way limit the collection and storage of sensitive, private information.

drone dreamers bill

“Drones can capture personal information, including faces and license plates, from all of the people on the ground within the range and sightlines of a drone. Drones can do so secretly, thoroughly, inexpensively, and at great distances. Millions of U.S. citizens and immigrants live close to the U.S. border, and deployment of drones at the U.S. border will invariably capture personal information from vast numbers of innocent people,” the EFF’s Adam Schwartz wrote.

The same bill would also require the Department of Homeland Security to upgrade its automatic license plate readers. This would cost $125 million. Virtually anyone who lives near the border would drive through checkpoints, so the government would easily obtain their private data.

The legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation might come at the price of high tech spying. That seems to be the uncomfortable truth.