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DHS has backed off on proposing facial recognition screening of all travelers at the border and airports.

DHS had proposed a rule to expand biometrics at the border, including requiring facial recognition screening of all travelers to include U.S. citizens. On Thursday, DHS retreated from the idea, saying it has no plans to expand facial recognition to U.S. citizens. Privacy experts questioned the accuracy of facial recognition in general and have concerns that such an expansive system is susceptible to hacks or improper use of data. In response, DHS has decreased the amount of time it will retain photos from 14 days to 12 hours. Facial recognition is currently used in more than a dozen U.S. airports.

A privacy rights group has sued the Trump administration over border DNA testing.

 The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on November 12 to compel the government to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Specifically, EFF is looking for information on “the number of individuals whose DNA had been collected, the accuracy of DNA matches, and the exact gene processing used to identify parent-child relationships.” The DNA testing used by the government claims to have results within 90 minutes, which has raised some questions on accuracy. Additionally, though the government claims that the DNA tests are voluntary based on consent forms, EFF has concerns about coercion. According to EFF, the consent forms claim that refusing a DNA test can result in family separation. Right now, the lawsuit is only about getting information under FOIA.

The Trump administration has notified landowners that it is surveying their land for the border wall.

The Trump administration is planning on using eminent domain to acquire private land in Texas to use for the border wall. On Thursday, the government sent Right of Entry letters to dozens of landowners informing them that it will be surveying the land. The owners must sign the letters for the government to be able to come onto the land, but if they don’t sign, the matter will be escalated to the DOJ to get court-ordered access. Acting CBP Commissioner Morgan stated that he is aware there will likely be litigation over the land acquisition, but thinks that the government is “on track” to get the 450 miles for the wall.

A record number of children were held in detention in the U.S. in 2019.

 69,550 children were held in detention in 2019, a number higher than any other country. The U.S. has acknowledged detaining children is psychologically harmful, but increased the number of detained children by 42% between just 2018 and 2019. Because the federal government was aware of the risks of family detention when it implemented it, on November 5 a federal judge ordered the government to provide mental health screenings and treatment to families who were separated and are now traumatized. 

A privacy rights group has sued the Trump administration over border DNA testing.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on November 12 to compel the government to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Specifically, EFF is looking for information on “the number of individuals whose DNA had been collected, the accuracy of DNA matches, and the exact gene processing used to identify parent-child relationships.” The DNA testing used by the government claims to have results within 90 minutes, which has raised some questions on accuracy. Additionally, though the government claims that the DNA tests are voluntary based on consent forms, EFF has concerns about coercion. According to EFF, the consent forms claim that refusing a DNA test can result in family separation. For now, the lawsuit is only about getting information about the testing under FOIA.

Trump Officials Discussed Deporting Families

The Associated Press reports that DHS officials considered arresting thousands of migrant families who had final deportation orders and removing them from the United States in a flashy show of force. The proposal was intended to deter other migrants but was put aside at the time because of concerns about diverting resources from the border, a lack of detention space, and the possibility of renewed public outrage over treatment of families.

Civil Liberties Groups Ask Congress to Refuse Border Tech Funding in Any Shutdown Deal

The Hill reports that a coalition of civil liberties and immigration groups have raised concerns with congressional leadership about border technologies proposed as part of the bipartisan and bicameral negotiations to reach a border deal by February 15 to avoid another shutdown. According to the groups, surveillance drones, license plate readers, and DNA testing could raise serious privacy concerns for those crossing the border and living in border cities, while “risk-based targeting” and biometrics technologies could result in racial profiling and harm vulnerable communities.

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