[Headlines from DRJ]
President Trump announced Thursday he would sign an executive order to obtain data about the U.S. citizenship and noncitizenship status of everyone living in the United States.
In a Rose Garden ceremony, Trump said he would drop efforts to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Instead, his executive order will direct all U.S. agencies to provide the Department of Commerce all information they have on U.S. citizenship, noncitizenship and immigration status.
Might this data include driver’s license photos?
Civil rights activists complained Monday of the potential for widespread abuse following confirmation that at least three states have scanned millions of driver’s license photos on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement without the drivers’ knowledge or consent.
Public records obtained by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology provided the first proof that ICE had sought such scans, which were conducted in Utah, Vermont and Washington.
All three states — which offer driving privileges to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally — agreed to the ICE requests, according to documents shared with The Associated Press on Monday and first reported by The Washington Post.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., let the FBI access their drivers’ license and identification photos, according to a Government Accountability Office report published last month. The report said the FBI currently has access to 640 million photos — including for U.S. visa applicants — with more than 390,000 photos searched for matches since 2011, the year the agency augmented its fingerprint database with facial analysis.
UPDATE: Asking a Census question may or may not have been the best way to get answers:
The Census Bureau currently asks about citizenship status on the American Community Survey, a yearly survey involving about one in 38 households. But research by the bureau suggests asking all U.S. households about citizenship status could discourage noncitizens from taking part in the national head count and harm the accuracy of the population counts used to redistribute congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states once a decade.
Still, Ross overruled those warnings, as well as a suggestion by Census Bureau officials to forgo the question and instead compile existing government records about citizenship status. In a memo prepared for Ross, the bureau’s chief scientist said that alternative would be less expensive and produce more accurate citizenship data for Voting Rights Act enforcement.
The memo reviews three possible approaches — no change, adding a Census question, or obtaining existing data from government records — and discusses the costs and benefits of all three.