Does DHS have a plan to track children illegally crossing the border?
By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The immigration crisis, now subject to election-year political posturing, is inspiring members of the private sector to act where government is failing.
WELCOME TO AMERICA: Since DHS helped to facilitate the illegal immigration of thousands of undocumented Central American children, does the agency have a plan to keep track of them all?
The Department of Homeland Security’s centralized system, the Automated Biometric Identification System, enables the agency to store collected biometric data for up to 75 years for national security, law enforcement and immigration purposes.
But what of the thousands of undocumented children at the southern border who fled the violence in Central American and who have no legally established identities, some of whose parents are reported to have paid smugglers to illegally bring them to the U.S.?
Neville Pattinson, senior vice president of government affairs for Gemalto, an international digital security company, recently told Watchdog.org he believes the government should issue identification cards to the children to keep track of them in the event they are deported and want to re-enter the country.
“I think that we could augment that,” said Pattinson, referring to DHS’ current biometric system, “by providing an ID card program … to show that (the children) are associated with certain parents, whoever they belong to.”
The parents could then vouch for the children with a card of their own, Pattinson said.
Gemalto is a global company whose border technologies are used in Ghana and Morocco. But with an office about 300 miles north of the border in Austin, Texas, the crisis is a local problem Gemalto is looking to solve.
Pattinson roughly estimates the project would cost taxpayers several million dollars to implement, which might be a tricky sell to members of Congress battling over President Obama’s $3.1 billion request for the border as they look toward the August recess next week.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s plan to send national guard troops to the border will reportedly cost the Lone Star state’s residents an estimated $17 million per month.
Mentions of biometrics and national ID cards over the past several years provoke fears of a dystopian future, in which the liberties of law-abiding citizens were forfeited for convenience and security.
Privacy activists worried that the facial recognition technology, a so-called “photo tool” called for in an immigration bill favored by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, could be used against American citizens.
The national security leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, now an American fugitive seeking to renew his asylum in Russia, in the summer of 2013 also amplified a global conversation about privacy.
Pattinson said sophisticated identification technologies like the ones made by Gemalto allows users to securely assert their identity in a way that protects their privacy.
With regard to tracking the undocumented children coming across the border, an ID card made by Gemalto would keep track of the child’s photograph and other biometric information.
” I really think that children need to be treated with a certain respect and manner, but they are illegal immigrants and so we should certainly be looking at making sure that once we help them, we record their information as we can establish it,” said Pattinson, “certainly their biometrics, so that can be used down the road to prove that they’re the same individual.”
Other members of the private sector are working to meet the crisis head on. Conservative media mogul Glenn Beck, for example, recently recruited his listeners to support the humanitarian relief work his charity, Mercury One, was doing at the border in McAllen, Texas.
Beck and Mercury One partnered with local churches during a weekend in July to serve meals and hand out toys and clothes to the children.
Open Society Foundations, the global philanthropy of left-wing billionaire investor George Soros, seeks to build up its advocacy efforts for Latin American migrants, according to a recent job posting on its site.
White House aides reportedly knew of the brewing crisis in 2013, according to the Washington Post, but dismissed the problem as a local issue.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency under DHS, confirmed in late June to The Blaze that it solicited “escort services for unaccompanied alien children” in January, anticipating the need to relocate 65,000 undocumented children.
The American Thinker suggested in a recent piece the surge might be attributable to the Obama administration’s Family Interest Directive, issued in August 2013, which prohibits ICE agents from deporting the parents and legal guardians of undocumented children.
The administration’s critics level accusations the children — many of whom housed as far north of the border as Virginia, Nebraska, and even Iowa — are being used as human shields by their more desperate guardians to escape the risk of deportation.
DHS and the Tuscon Police Department also warned as far back as 2010 that Mexican drug cartels were teaming up with Hezbollah to exploit weaknesses in southern border security.
DHS did not return Watchdog.org’s requests for comment on how the agency plans to keep track of the undocumented children in question.
Contact Josh Peterson at email@example.com. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson