Pending the approval of the Biden administration’s proposed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will issue unofficial federal identification cards to illegal aliens facing deportation.
Under this pilot initiative entitled the ICE Secure Docket Card program, an illegal alien will be provided with a so-called "Secure Docket Card." This card will contain a photo, the individual's name and nationality, and a QR code corresponding with the person's immigration information.
According to the proposal, these cards are intended “to allow noncitizens access to immigration files and documents.” ICE told Axios that the primary goal is to "improve current, inconsistent paper forms that often degrade rapidly." Its proponents also have suggested that the program might help reduce the DHS' FOIA backlog and "free up resources."
On July 29, House Oversight Committee Republicans including ranking members James Comer (R-Ky.) and Glenn Gorthman (R-Wis.) released a letter sent to ICE's Acting Director Tae Johnson, which suggested that "this pilot program is yet another Biden Administration move encouraging illegal immigration by rewarding illegal immigrants for breaking our laws."
The letter further states that this program "is intended in part to help illegal immigrants circumvent checking in physically at ICE offices and more easily access benefits within the United States."
The letter's authors recommend detention, not IDs, to address the trend of aliens failing to check in with ICE. Concerning benefits, they cite the claim made in Axios that these IDs "could be presented to TSA agents to allow unauthorized immigrants to more easily travel by plane or to access certain state benefit programs," such as health care, housing, and transportation.
The Oversight Committee Republicans contextualized their broader concern: "In the year and a half since President Biden took office, the Department of Homeland Security personnel have encountered over 3.1 million illegal immigrants at our southwest border," noting also that "this Administration has released over 1,048,000 illegal immigrants into the interior of the United States since President Biden took office, not including aliens who evaded apprehension entirely."
Brandon Judd, president of the Border Patrol Council, recently spoke to Fox News about another potential abuse of this program. Judd suggested that illegal aliens could use these cards to report to Citizenship and Immigration Services, which will then facilitate their work permits.
WKMG reports that some have also expressed concern over whether human smugglers may advertise the cards to persuade migrants to illegally enter the U.S.
The program's critics are not limited to those concerned about the impact of illegal immigration. According to WKMG, Talia Inlender, deputy director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at University of California, Los Angeles, law school, doubts whether the cards will simplify the process for immigrants and thinks they may instead be used by the government for surveillance purposes.
The Biden administration is asking for $10 million to fund the program for the 2023 fiscal year and recommends that another $20 million be spent to “enhance legal access for detained individuals, including increased access to legal resources and electronic communications.”
It is presently unclear whether the program is intended to grow into something far larger.