A coalition of human rights groups and technology organizations has blasted House Democrats’ high-tech border security proposal as a potentially invasive form of surveillance that would curtail Americans’ privacy and target minorities.
“We know that the border is often a testing ground for surveillance technology that is later deployed throughout the United States,” the letter, which was signed by groups including the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center, states. “Ubiquitous surveillance technology poses a serious threat to human rights and constitutional liberties.”
In the letter posted to Medium on Tuesday, the group states that since “border funding is already at a historic high, we do not believe that additional funding is needed to further fund border technology.”
The organizations are worried about several aspects of the House Democrats’ proposal, which was released late last month.
The proposal calls for expanding “risk-based targeting of passengers and cargo” entering the country.
“We are concerned that this includes the expansion of programs—proven to be ineffective and to exacerbate racial profiling—that use mathematical analytics to make targeting determinations,” the letter says.
The Democrats’ proposal calls for “new cutting edge technology” but the coalition of human rights groups says biometrics—such as the type of facial recognition used at some airports—should not be deployed broadly at the border. The group notes that the Congressional Black Caucus and others have said facial recognition technology would “place disproportionate burdens on communities of color and stifle Americans’ willingness to exercise their first amendment rights in public.”
In addition, the groups oppose any collection of immigrants’ DNA at the U.S. border, stating they are concerned both about the how such data would be managed and how such a program could be dramatically expanded.
“We urge Congress to ensure that even deployments of technology with existing funding be made contingent upon independent certification that the technology has efficacy and does not adversely impact privacy and civil liberties.”
Although House Democrats have remained united against providing any funds for President Trump’s border wall, at least one member, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, voted against a bill to reopen the U.S. government that also provided funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and border security.