The Biden Administration has proposed national ID cards for undocumented immigrants. This would provide a way for them to prove their identity and status in the United States. It would also make it easier for them to access government services and benefits. The ID cards would be issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The national ID program also known as the “ICE Secure Docket Card program” was developed for undocumented migrants who are located near the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the short term, this national ID is great news for immigration relationships between U.S. and Mexico. In the long term, this will help non-U.S. citizens who have or will be migrating to the U.S. a way to identify themselves without having to obtain legal status. The National ID will also allow undocumented immigrants access to government necessities like housing, healthcare, transportation, and state benefit programs. This temporary identification will also help undocumented immigrants with immigration cases and court proceedings.
National IDs Initial Roll Out
The first wave of issued national ID cards will be around 10 million in total by the end of 2023. The first year of national IDs issued will have a primary focus of gather info about immigrants and making the gathered info more readily available for immigration officials. The info gathered will be on a QR code on the new ID with a photo of the undocumented immigrant. The QR code will take the immigration official to a website that contains all the information about the immigrant who’s going through the immigration process or an immigrant that has already gone through the immigration process in the past.
The website will also allow for the capabilities of checking in on their hearings, immigration appointments, court information, documents, and more. As United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) modernizes the immigration process by creating simple solutions to access information, more and more of the immigration process will be through these IDs which will enable immigrants to have U.S. government resources that were not easily accessible before and evolve the process into a digital platform.
Administration & Government Agencies
The Biden administration is going after congressional approval before the November primary elections. Congress will vote on the issue to decide whether or not to expand the ICE Secure Docket Card program to other immigration categories outside of the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), when this program expands into other immigration categories it will help other immigration officials outside the ICE agency. These immigration officials who encounter an immigrant with a national ID will easily be able to see whether:
- Their pending asylum
- Their next hearing takes place
- Are they going through an adjustment of status
- Or other immigration processes taking place for the migrant
These findings will be important for a government official to determine what is the status of the current immigrant that they’re currently trying to detain or question. For instance, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has already mentioned how this could be beneficially used for immigrants that are traveling through airports.
Fears & Concerns
Even though this is only for immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border ICE and the Biden administration are pushing the Secure Docket Card program into other immigrant categories. Within these immigration categories, they are immigrant communities that are not in favor of this program. These communities particularly don’t like the idea of the U.S. having more information about them than their friends within these immigrant communities. Another concern within the immigrant communities is what data will exactly be included in those cards. Especially data that they find private to themselves.
As with any modernization of a process that adds convenience, it will lose privacy. Overall the administration has to take into consideration whether the immigration population feels safe otherwise they won’t migrate to the United States.
Many have asked whether this is a supplement to the alternative detention program. ICE has stated this is true because there is constant reporting happening during the immigration process. This program was created for the release of immigrants from custody and puts them into a program where ICE officials can monitor immigrants about their location during the time someone has a pending hearing. This program mainly focused on vulnerable populations like pregnant women, unaccompanied minors, and other ill immigrants.
Overall we still don’t what information exactly will end up on these cards and how this modernization will speed up any process for immigration officials. But certain promised features within the ID will allow for court hearings and other immigration proceedings to be notified via web app making it easy for immigrants not to miss anything. Whether government agencies use these IDs to track immigrants is still unclear. Will this be the first steps into a