U.S. immigration authorities plan to issue photo identification cards to migrants in deportation proceedings in a bid to reduce paper use and help them keep up with their meetings and court hearings, according to officials.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) proposal is still being developed as a pilot program, and it was not immediately clear how many of these IDs will be issued. The cards would not be an official form of federal identification and will state that they are to be used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The idea is that users can access information about their cases online using the card instead of paper documentation, which is bulky and can be erased over time, authorities said. ICE agents could also conduct checks with the cards on the ground, they added.
“Switching to a secure card will save the agency millions, free up resources and ensure DHS officials can quickly access information, while reducing the agency’s FOIA backlog,” a spokesperson said. ICE in a statement, referring to pending public requests for documentation from the department Homeland Security receives more Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests than any other federal agency, according to data from the government, and many of them refer to migrant files.
The proposal has generated a barrage of questions about the use that the card could have and its degree of security. Some fear the program could lead to the stalking of those awaiting immigration court appointments, while others suggest they could be employed by human smugglers to try to lure more people into making the perilous journey north.
Under a budget proposal for the next fiscal year, the administration of President Joe Biden is seeking $10 million to fund ICE’s so-called Secure Docket Card. But it was unclear whether that line item would cover the pilot or a broader program or when it would launch.
Pressure on the executive has increased as the number of people trying to enter the country through its southwestern border grows. Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 1.1 million migrants between January and June, almost a third more than in the same period in 2021.