Biometrics and Immigration Policy (2020-2021)

This project team examined how the U.S. collects and uses immigrants’ biometric data as well as the ethical tensions underlying the imperative to balance national security alongside the rights of migrants. This project built on ongoing NIH-funded research on biometrics and immigration in the Farahany Science, Law and Policy Lab.

Team members conducted a detailed gap analysis to identify current uses of biometrics in migrant surveillance; explored how migrants’ biometric information is gathered in the U.S.; assessed proposed plans for additional biometric data collection, including which policies govern the collection and use of this data; and investigated the potential misuse of such data by identifying case studies of (mis)use in the U.S. and other countries.

The team prepared comments on a rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security intended to dramatically expand the collection of biometric information, including DNA, from migrants. The proposed rule was later withdrawn, in large part due to the immense amount of public pushback. Members of the team also conducted research into the Department's COVID-19 response and drafted guidance regarding the potential "reopening" of the U.S. immigration system in a post-COVID world. Some members of the team presented research related to the project at the American Society for Bioethics + Humanities conference in October of 2020. 


Spring 2020 – Fall 2020

Team Outputs

The Rise and Regulation of Thermal Facial Recognition Technology during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Meredith Van Natta, Pau Chen, Savanna Herbek, Rishabh Jain, Nicole Kastelic, Evan Katz, Micalyn Struble, Vineel Vanam, Niharika Vattikonda. 2020. Journal of Law and the Biosciences. 7(1): 1-17.

Biometrics governance gap map

White paper on guidance for the "reopening" of the U.S. immigration system post-COVID-19

Presentation for American Society for Bioethics + Humanities (October 2020)

This Team in the News

Immigration Projects Explore Biometrics, Mental Health and Deportation Issues

Duke Law Faculty, Students Tackling Diverse Interdisciplinary Research Projects through Bass Connections


Team Leaders

  • Nita Farahany, Duke Law|Arts & Sciences-Philosophy
  • Dylan Stonecipher, Science & Society
  • Meredith Van Natta, Science & Society

/graduate Team Members

  • Evan Katz, Masters of Public Policy
  • Reg Ledesma, Masters of Public Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Sydney Ballard, Computer Science (BS)
  • Paul Chen, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Savannah Herbek, Biology (BS)
  • Rishabh Jain, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Ashil Jhaveri, Computer Science (BS)
  • Nicole Kastelic, Biology (BS)
  • Micalyn Struble, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Vineel Vanam, Computer Science (BS)
  • Niharika Vattikonda, Robertson Scholarship - UNC
  • Desta Yosief, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • David Hoffman, Sanford School of Public Policy