In China, these facial-recognition glasses are helping police to catch criminals

Officers are using the technology at a railway station in Henan province during the Lunar New Year holiday period to search for wanted criminals


Police in a city in central China are using special glasses with facial-recognition software to help search for wanted criminals passing through a railway station during the Lunar New Year holiday travel rush.

The glasses are connected to a tablet device that searches for matches of faces scanned. Photo: AFP

The glasses are connected to a tablet device that searches for matches of faces scanned. Photo: AFP

Up to Tuesday, police had identified seven fugitives related to hit-and-run and human trafficking cases, plus spotted 26 cases of identity fraud with the use of the glasses at four entrances at the station, according to, a website that covers China’s railway news.

The spectacles were designed for police use and are linked to a tablet device. After scanning the face of the passenger coming into the station, the device activates software to search faces in a database, looking for a match with suspects.

About 70,000 to 120,000 people use the railway station each day.

US. National ID. card coming soon?

September 11 was quickly followed by calls from some lawmakers and business leaders for a more robust national identification system: ID cards that possess sophisticated biometric data, making them harder to forge than today's driver's licenses.

What the US. National ID. card could look like with its security features.

What the US. National ID. card could look like with its security features.

Privacy advocates are strongly opposed, arguing that such cards, while enabling the government to track individuals and access personal data, would do little to separate the innocent citizen from the walking security threat.

For now, the Trump administration is cool to the idea, but it's not hard to envision the Department of Homeland Security re-examining the concept if further terrorist attacks occur.

More than 30 countries, from Italy to Malaysia, have already introduced "smart" ID cards. If you're eventually issued a national card, it will likely incorporate several of the technologies shown here, combined to make the card readable by both high- and low-tech devices.

1. Your USID number

Most logically your Social Security number. Although the federal government has rejected using the SS card as an ID card, the number is already used by the IRS. If a card is introduced, it's a good guess the Department of Homeland Security would manage it, possibly issuing different classes of cards for citizens, green card holders, and others.

2. Optical Memory Strip

An optical memory data strip (like a small CD laminated onto the card) locks in 4MB of read-only data, which can be read by an optical scanner. The strip can contain a digitized image of a fingerprint and a photo, along with essential personal data such as previous addresses, mother's maiden name, and, optionally, medical data such as allergies. Room remains for scanned documents, X rays, or digital signatures. LaserCard of Mountain View, California, adds an embedded hologram.

3. Photograph

Standard printing technology, which lays down ink on the card material, easily succumbs to skilled forgers. One step up is laser engraving: Machines permanently etch a photo into the card material, usually a polymer such as polycarbonate. It's virtually impossible to erase or alter a laser-engraved image without leaving telltale marks. But a trained person is still needed to examine the card for sophisticated tampering. Another step up: Integrate a radio frequency identification (RFID) device, which would automate the authentication process. An RFID chip and antenna would be placed beneath the photo. If the image is altered, the chip and antenna are disturbed, and a portable reader will register a problem.

4. Smart card technology

With the addition of an integrated circuit microprocessor, the card can perform data manipulation and run cryptographic algorithms. The processor makes it possible to limit the amount of data any one official can access. For example, an ER doctor could view medical information and enter data about treatment (if the card's data storage device is read-write capable), but could not see security-related data (such as a traveler's flight history, or a non-citizen's visa status) that an airport or INS official might require. But how secure are smart cards? Detailed instructional hacking sites can be found on the Web, many focusing on European cards. And the more data on a card, the more valuable the card becomes to an identity thief.

5. Internal Memory Strip

Currently manufactured only by UltraCard of Los Gatos, California, this rewritable internal strip can store 20MB of data, roughly the capacity of 14 floppy disks—essentially giving the card a (tiny) hard drive. The capacity may soon grow by a factor of 10, according to the manufacturer. A high-capacity device could store rich biometric data such as several fingerprints, iris scans, face scans, heartbeat characteristics, or DNA sequences. In a relatively simple application, law enforcement officials access the card data using a portable reader and match it to the biometrics of the person presenting the card. Or an entry control system might be developed that automatically matches, for example, the iris scan on the card with the cardholder's iris.

6. 2-D Bar Code

This low-tech info coding could be used by officials who don't have more sophisticated optical reading devices. A big step up from the simple 20-byte-capacity bar code you see on cereal boxes, the 2-D bar code stores information in vertical and horizontal lines—up to 2KB or more of data, potentially including text, a photo, and a limited amount of biometrics. These bar codes are already used on driver's licenses in several states, generally to code the same information that's on the face of the card. The technology is virtually tamperproof. The main problem: relatively small capacity per inch of card real estate. Datastrip Inc. of Exton, Pennsylvania, says it can cram 2.8KB of data into a space the size of a conventional thin magnetic strip. The company also sells a portable reader with an integrated fingerprint identifier.


The biggest challenge for a national ID system is ensuring the accuracy of the information used to build a database of names, biometrics, and the like. There are more than 200 million state driver's licenses in the country, representing the largest collection of data of its kind.

The most pressing question: How accurate are these databases? How easy is it to obtain a license fraudulently? As the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators points out, al Qaeda terrorists used licenses to build U.S. identities.

In January the AAMVA proposed beefing up the system by establishing uniform standards for licenses, coordinating data between states, and improving security and biometrics. A national ID initiative could be a springboard for this effort.



Delaware cops to use AI dashcam to look for fugitives in passing cars as experts warn of 'huge privacy issues'


  • 'Smart' cameras in cruisers to scan for fugitive, missing child or straying senior
  • Same system can help retail stores detect in real time if an armed robbery is in progress, by identifying guns or masked assailants

Police in the US state of Delaware are poised to deploy 'smart' cameras in cruisers to help authorities detect a vehicle carrying a fugitive, missing child or straying senior.

The video feeds will be analyzed using artificial intelligence to identify vehicles by license plate or other features and 'give an extra set of eyes' to officers on patrol, says David Hinojosa of Coban Technologies, the company providing the equipment.

'We are helping officers keep their focus on their jobs,' said Hinojosa, who touts the new technology as a 'dashcam on steroids.'

A display shows a vehicle and person recognition system for law enforcement during the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference, which showcases artificial intelligence, deep learning, virtual reality and autonomous machines

A display shows a vehicle and person recognition system for law enforcement during the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference, which showcases artificial intelligence, deep learning, virtual reality and autonomous machines

The program is part of a growing trend to use vision-based AI to thwart crime and improve public safety, a trend which has stirred concerns among privacy and civil liberties activists who fear the technology could lead to secret 'profiling' and misuse of data.

US-based startup Deep Science is using the same technology to help retail stores detect in real time if an armed robbery is in progress, by identifying guns or masked assailants.

Deep Science has pilot projects with US retailers, enabling automatic alerts in the case of robberies, fire or other threats.

The technology can monitor for threats more efficiently and at a lower cost than human security guards, according to Deep Science co-founder Sean Huver, a former engineer for DARPA, the Pentagon's long-term research arm.

'A common problem is that security guards get bored,' he said.

Until recently, most predictive analytics relied on inputting numbers and other data to interpret trends. But advances in visual recognition are now being used to detect firearms, specific vehicles or individuals to help law enforcement and private security.

Saurabh Jain is product manager for the computer graphics group Nvidia, which makes computer chips for such systems and which held a recent conference in Washington with its technology partners.

He says the same computer vision technologies are used for self-driving vehicles, drones and other autonomous systems, to recognize and interpret the surrounding environment. Nvidia has some 50 partners who use its supercomputing module called Jetson or its Metropolis software for security and related applications, according to Jain.

One of those partners, California-based Umbo Computer Vision, has developed an AI-enhanced security monitoring system which can be used at schools, hotels or other locations, analyzing video to detect intrusions and threats in real-time, and sending alerts to a security guard's computer or phone.

video feeds will be analyzed using artificial intelligence to identify vehicles by license plate. It can also look for faces, weapons, dangerous movements or behaviors, and other artificial intelligence-based applications

video feeds will be analyzed using artificial intelligence to identify vehicles by license plate. It can also look for faces, weapons, dangerous movements or behaviors, and other artificial intelligence-based applications

Israeli startup Briefcam meanwhile uses similar technology to interpret video surveillance footage.

'Video is unstructured, it's not searchable,' explained Amit Gavish, Briefcam's US general manager. Without artificial intelligence, he says, ''you had to go through hundreds of hours of video with fast forward and rewind.'

'We detect, track, extract and classify each object in the video. So it becomes a database.'

This can enable investigators to quickly find targets from video surveillance, a system already used by law enforcement in hundreds of cities around the world, including Paris, Boston and Chicago, Gavish said. 'It's not only saving time. In many cases they wouldn't be able to do it because people who watch video become ineffective after 10 to 20 minutes,' he said.

Facial recognition can be useful for law enforcement and public safety but raises questions about secret profiling

Facial recognition can be useful for law enforcement and public safety but raises questions about secret profiling

Russia-based startup Vision Labs employs the Nvidia technology for facial recognition systems that can be used to identify potential shoplifters or problem customers in casinos or other locations.

Vadim Kilimnichenko, project manager at Vision Labs, said the company works with law enforcement in Russia as well as commercial clients.

'We can deploy this anywhere through the cloud,' he said.

Customers of Vision labs include banks seeking to prevent fraud, which can use face recognition to determine if someone is using a false identity, Kilimnichenko said.

For Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the rapid growth in these technologies raises privacy risks and calls for regulatory scrutiny over how data is stored and applied.

Elliot Hirsch of Deep Science holds a fake gun as he demonstrates the company's security system to automatically detect firearms and thieves

Elliot Hirsch of Deep Science holds a fake gun as he demonstrates the company's security system to automatically detect firearms and thieves

'Some of these techniques can be helpful but there are huge privacy issues when systems are designed to capture identity and make a determination based on personal data,' Rotenberg said.

'That's where issues of secret profiling, bias and accuracy enter the picture.'

Rotenberg said the use of AI systems in criminal justice calls for scrutiny to ensure legal safeguards, transparency and procedural rights.

In a blog post earlier this year, Shelly Kramer of Futurum Research argued that AI holds great promise for law enforcement, be it for surveillance, scanning social media for threats, or using 'bots' as lie detectors.

'With that encouraging promise, though, comes a host of risks and responsibilities.'

Biometric Security Tunnels

Dubai Airport's Security Checkpoints Will Employ Facial Recognition


By the end of summer 2018, it is planned that Dubai airports will have integrated a new series of security checkpoints that take the form of facial recognition tunnels. It is estimated that 124 million travelers will pass through Dubai airports by 2020 and this new system is set to modernize the current security checkpoints in place. 

The new tunnels that travelers will pass through will be covered in cameras to scan a passenger's face and retinas. Advertisements inside the tunnel will be used to capture a traveler's attention as they pass, making it possible for the hidden cameras to create a complete picture of one's face. After passing through the tunnel, a passenger will either be directed to move on or follow an additional security check based on a display system.


“Show Me Your Papers” Becomes “Open Your Eyes” as Border Sheriffs Expand Iris Surveillance


SINCE HIS INAUGURATION, President Donald Trump has found little funding for his “big, beautiful wall.” In the meantime, however, another acquisition promised to deter unauthorized immigrants is coming to the border: iris recognition devices. Thirty-one sheriffs, representing every county along the U.S.-Mexico border, voted unanimously on April 3 to adopt tools that will capture, catalogue, and compare individuals’ iris data, for use both in jails and out on patrol. Biometric Intelligence and Identification Technologies, the company behind the push, has offered the sheriffs a free three-year trial, citing law enforcement’s difficulties in identifying unauthorized immigrants whose fingerprints can be disfigured through manual labor or self-inflicted wounds.

Iris recognition is just the latest surveillance technology helping fortify what the White House hopes will make up a “digital wall,” a concept that many border sheriffs view as less intrusive than Trump’s envisioned 30-foot barricade stretching from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California. For law enforcement, the tool promises to help identify people without reliable fingerprints and to deter repeat border crossers. And for Biometric Intelligence and Identification Technologies, which frequently goes by BI2, rapid border expansion means its existing national iris database will receive a huge influx of biometric information on unauthorized immigrants, boosting its product’s capabilities to potential law enforcement clients across the country.

While this high-tech approach to immigration enforcement has not generated anything close to the controversy of Trump’s proposed wall, the campaign to expand iris scan collection on the border is of a piece with the president’s denunciations of Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

According to John Leonard, senior vice president of BI2, the company’s decision to give away this technology was, in part, motivated by law enforcement’s alleged struggles with violent unauthorized immigrants. “The frustration law enforcement has is this: ‘Alright, I got this criminal, the guy raped three kids. He’s back in my community again. I don’t even know who he is, and the federal government has never given me what I need,'” Leonard said during a video call with The Intercept.

“You get all these people that say, ‘Well Trump is going after all these illegals, these immigrants, who have made America great.’ Well there’s a lot of immigrants that have made it great, but there’s a lot of assholes, too,” he said. “So BI2 is stepping up to the plate and donating this.”

IN THE COMING months, BI2’s iris recognition devices will be installed in every sheriff’s department along the U.S.-Mexico border. Each department will receive both a stationary iris capture device for inmate intake facilities and, eventually, a mobile version, according to Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez of Val Verde County, Texas, who currently serves as the president of the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition.

The technology works by taking a high-resolution image of a person’s iris with a special infrared illumination camera, and then creating an individualized iris template based on that image. The templates exploitnearly 240 unique characteristic elements in the iris, compared to the 40 to 60 used for fingerprints, resulting in far fewer false matches. To make an identification, BI2’s iris recognition program compares an individual’s iris against the over 987,000 iris scans held in its private database, which collects images from over 180 law enforcement jurisdictions nationwide.

In May, I traveled to Wayne County, North Carolina, to observe the sheriff’s department’s new BI2 iris unit in action. Sgt. Delbert Edwards, an older man in gray, stood at his computer terminal, instructing me to step about eight inches away from a small black lens mounted on a counter. Three red lights flashed in my left eye, then a blue one. Edwards beckoned me to tilt my head back, and suddenly, a green dot popped onto the screen. The camera reflexively tilted upward, having taken what it needed from me. “Right, there you go, perfect,” Edwards said, glancing at a window on his screen where black and white images of my disembodied eyes stared back at him.

Edwards then watched as a green bar zipped back and forth under the iris image, checking against an inmate he picked at random and against hundreds of thousands of other irises captured from inmates across the country. After 20 seconds a message appeared: “Individual was not verified, and the irises didn’t match anybody else.” Behind the message was an image of the county inmate Edwards tested my iris against. On the screen, I could see a woman with brown hair, an orange jumpsuit, and a blank stare.

After scanning the iris, an image appears on the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System for comparison in a central database.

SHERIFF OMAR LUCIO of Cameron County, Texas, is a big fan of BI2’s iris system. He will be one of the first border sheriffs using it. When I met Lucio in April, the white-haired sheriff sported a dark brown uniform with a cross of gold buttons and a shiny badge over his heart. Above his old-school mustache, his eyes twinkled as he praised the coming iris installation.

“The wall is not going to prevent it. Technology is the way to go,” Lucio said, referring to unauthorized immigration. “It’s not unusual for people caught illegally from Mexico to give fake names and date of births. But it doesn’t matter what you use if we have your features — your iris, your fingerprints. You can use a hundred different names. We still can say, ‘This is the guy.’”

Martinez, the head of the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition, hopes that the mobile version of BI2’s iris scanners will help his deputies when out in the field along the border in Val Verde County. “Let’s say you have an individual who doesn’t want to identify himself. If he’s not suspected of anything, without this tool, we would let him go,” Martinez said in a phone call with The Intercept. “But if we are able to get the iris scanned out in the field, having some probable cause to do so, we can find out if there’s something on him.”

The templates generated from iris images taken with BI2’s mobile application can be compared against hundreds of thousands of other iris templates in just under 20 seconds. The scans are also automatically saved into BI2’s national database, BI2’s Leonard confirmed in an email to The Intercept. Leonard, however, cautioned that ambient light could in some cases interfere with the capture process outdoors.

Giving law enforcement the ability to check and collect people’s irises for criminal history and, in effect, their citizenship information during stops could lead to racial profiling, said Nathan Wessler, staff attorney with the Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “In this country, we’ve long resisted being a ‘show me your papers’ society, but this moves us to that because you increasingly can’t avoid your identity being scooped up in public,” Wessler told The Intercept. “Racial profiling is a serious concern, especially Latinos or people of color are at greater risk for iris checks simply for the color of their skin.”

The 31 border counties’ acquisition of these tools will also help rapidly build up BI2’s private iris database. At present, the database is housed by a third-party vendor in an undisclosed location in San Antonio, Texas, and in three other disaster backup facilities. The database is the largest of its kind in North America, according to Leonard.

The bigger the database, the more valuable it becomes to law enforcement. “If he doesn’t have any criminal record before, you don’t have anything. But once we do this” — scan the iris — “we’re going to have that record. We’re enrolling and you’re going to be there,” said Lucio, the Cameron County sheriff, of a hypothetical detainee. “When he’s arrested, even if he gave you a fake name at the beginning, he’s not going to fool anybody because his record is there.”

Adam Schwartz, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s civil liberties team, said local law enforcement should not be collecting biometric data to help federal immigration agencies, like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Just because you are walking in a border town and a cop says, ‘Hey, can I talk to you?’ you have no diminished expectations of privacy, and your biometrics should not be collected,” Schwartz told The Intercept. “Whatever legitimate interest police have in capturing biometrics to do ordinary law enforcement jobs, it is not proper to share that information with ICE.” Currently, ICE has direct access to many law enforcement databases.

Lucio acknowledged such technological improvements will put unauthorized immigrants at far greater risk for prison time. “No question about it. Some people have been arrested and they’re coming from across or from another county, so not going to give you any kind of a name,” Lucio said. “They know if you’re arrested a second time, it’s a federal crime” — referring to the stiff federal charges for immigrants caught re-entering the country without authorization.

Kelly Lytle Hernandez, an associate professor in the University of California, Los Angeles’s history department, argues the legal consequences of this development tie in to a much larger story about the U.S.-Mexico border. “It’s particularly interesting that this technology is being sold as a way to identify ‘chronic offenders’ of unauthorized re-entry, a crime that was invented in 1929 by Coleman Livingston Blease, a white supremacist senator from South Carolina who wanted to control the in-flow of Mexicans,” Hernandez said in an interview. “Any technology promising to ratchet up unauthorized re-entry charges is obviously wrapped up in that history.”

BI2’S EXPANSIONARY PUSH along the border comes on the heels of new business opportunities presented by Trump’s immigration enforcement push. On April 12, the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition, the group BI2 is partnering with in its three-year iris scan pilot program, requested a grant of $750,000 from the Department of Justice to “improve and expand the biometric identification capabilities of the 31 sheriff’s offices along the U.S. and Mexico border.” In a phone call, Leonard told The Intercept that such grant negotiations are “strictly between the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the sheriffs,” adding, “It’s their money and they can allocate it as they propose.”

However, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, a week after the sheriffs’ grant request was issued, Susan Richmond Johnson, a lobbyist with John Ashcroft’s TAG Holdings, attempted to set up meetings about the request with Danielle Cutrona, a senior adviser to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some sheriffs. Johnson hoped to bring BI2 president Sean Mullin into an eventual follow-up meeting, according to the source, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the matter and feared professional reprisal. TAG Holdings is an investor in BI2 and Johnson was an adviser to Ashcroft when he was attorney general during the Bush administration. Neither Johnson nor Mullin responded to The Intercept’s requests for comment.

Leonard did not confirm if any such follow-up took place. While some border sheriffs had a call with Justice Department officials about the grant request in the final week of May, he said, “We as a vendor are not able to listen in.”

Over the last 12 years years, BI2’s introduction of iris technology into law enforcement departments across the country has been gradual. In contrast to other countries, especially in the developing world, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have far less incentive to switch to iris identification because so much fingerprinting infrastructure already exists. “Other countries are developing from the ground up, so iris is appealing because it is considered one of the most accurate and stable biometrics across time,” said Clare Garvie, a fellow at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, in a phone call with The Intercept. “Here, we have legacy databases of faces and fingerprints, so the cost and time to deploy those biometric systems is much lower and more appealing.”

The long-standing use of other biometric systems in law enforcement circles has meant that private sector companies like BI2 play a large role in pushing iris identification infrastructure. Law enforcement officials say they don’t worry about the security of the biometric data they collect because BI2 is in charge of holding it for them. “The data is on the server, which is managed by BI2, so we don’t have to manage any data of that sort,” said Binit Nagori, an IT staffer at the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections. “Our officers just scan it and send it to them. We do not worry about the data. I believe BI2 has the data in a national database.”

Schwartz, the EFF lawyer, worries that law enforcement agencies are not doing enough to ensure residents’ sensitive data is protected. “If the government is saying we just capture the data, push a button, and vendor takes care of it, that is wholly inadequate,” he said. “Every time the data is stored or transmitted there is a risk of breach. And, unlike an address or social security number, you can’t change your iris. So if the government is going to purchase tools from vendors that amass biometric data, it is necessary that they employ privacy officers who know how to prevent security breaches and move the data securely.”

This private sector leadership in the adoption of iris tools, however, means that BI2 enjoys far more access to and control over criminal justice data than one might expect. Sitting in his cabin in North Carolina, Leonard shared a screen with me and used BI2’s interface to log into two law enforcement databases — one in Washington, D.C., and the other in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana.

“Give me the last name of anybody you think might be in the jail,” Leonard instructed me while he was logged into the D.C. Department of Corrections database.

“Garcia,” I said.

He typed in the name Garcia, and a list of inmates popped up, one of whom he selected at random. A new screen then appeared showing the mug shot of a man whose race category was labeled “H.” Next to this image, on my screen, I could also see fields for his social security number, date of birth, gender, booking number, and a few other categories, which, for other mugshots, were filled out but left blank on this entry. Leonard moved on to pick another inmate to show me how iris verification would work.

Leonard clicked on another inmate. “He’s a white guy, OK, he’s one of the only white guys I could find basically,” said Leonard, who then scanned his own eyes, adding them to the program. After about 20 seconds, gray images of Leonard’s eyes disappeared from my screen and a message popped up noting that his irises did not match those of the inmate. The message said the user on the system could click to see the real identity of the irises. Leonard then clicked through and an image of him, sitting in his cabin wearing a hoodie, appeared on the screen.

“This is why it would be important on the border,” Leonard said. “Because as you build, people lie all the time.”

MUCH LIKE TRUMP on the campaign trail, BI2 and some border sheriffs highlight notorious stories of violent criminal immigrants to argue for iris identification. During my visit to Cameron County, for example, Lucio mentioned the story of Angel Maturino Resendiz, a serial killer from Mexico who was executed by Texas in 2006.

“I’ll give you a true story that happened with an individual that was from Mexico, so you know about it. He was called the railroad rapist, or killer, OK?” said Lucio, who paused, unable to remember the story exactly. Beckoning to a nearby deputy to remind him of the character, Lucio continued, “Rodriguez was known as the railroad killer, Mike, or rapist?” The deputy leaned in close to his ear and told him the character’s real name.

“Yeah, it was Resendiz, wasn’t it?” Lucio said, now confident in his recollection. “This guy was from Mexico, a young guy, and he used to ride the railroads. And he would go to a place or city or what have you, and he would probably rape somebody or kill. So he was picked up several times, but he would give a false name and then he would be released, so by the time we get the information … the individual would be released, cross here, take off, and go back to Mexico and come back again. I think he killed about three or four people like that.”

Leonard showed me two images of a dark-skinned, middle-aged man with a buzz cut in an orange and gray jumpsuit. Under each mug shot was a different Hispanic or Latino name, and above each was a small thumbnail of a hand with crimson splotches cut across his fingertips.

“Now it’s obvious looking at the two people that this is the same guy, no question about that,” Leonard continued, scrolling his mouse between the two images of the inmate. “But he had surgically cut his fingerprints off — literally had them cut off by a doctor in the Dominican Republic, where’s he’s from,” Leonard said. “This guy was wanted on seven counts of homicide in Texas and Arizona. And we caught him because of his eyes, not because he told the truth, not because his fingerprints worked. It’s a perfect reason why fingerprints can’t be depended upon, you’re not going to cut out your eyes.”

Hernandez, the UCLA professor, contended that these grizzly tales of violence are cherry-picked to paint unauthorized immigrants with a broad criminal brush. The narrative may work to sell surveillance expansion, she argued, but also bolsters unfounded racial hatred against immigrant communities.

“The argument that there are extraordinarily violent individuals living within these populations has always been a part of immigrant exclusion projects,” Hernandez said. “Especially for Mexican-Americans, there was a clear shift in the middle of the 1950s, after Operation Wetback” — a 1950s crackdown on immigration rife with civil rights violations — “which was supposed to have solved the problem of immigration but didn’t actually stop it. So to rationalize the ongoing immigration, authorities explicitly no longer spoke about immigrants as workers, but as criminals. We’ve been stuck with that discourse ever since.”

BI2’s iris surveillance expansion on the border is moving ahead full steam despite these concerns. According to Leonard, the El Paso County sheriff’s department now has iris identification up and running, and Cameron County is next. Leonard says these installations will help authorities finally gain “control” of the border by documenting the undocumented.

“Right now, there is nothing like this on the border because the federal government has never given law enforcement agencies the technology to differentiate anybody in the field for any reason,” Leonard said. “That’s why we have so many illegal aliens: They just get in, and we don’t know who the hell they are and who they’re not.”

Hernandez, however, predicts that BI2’s iris solution will fail to stop migration flows, just as every law enforcement strategy before it failed. “This is just another example of profit making in immigration control, which seems to be on the rise with this administration,” Hernandez said. “We have always seen different waves of investment in technology, but they never have an impact on immigration. Yet we remain eternally convinced this stuff will save us from the larger problems of the border.”