Biometric Exit Border System & Beyond the Border

A House subcommittee hearing on the long-awaited implementation of a U.S. biometric border exit system highlights the value of maintaining and building upon the Canada-U.S. security relationship.

El Paso Inc. discusses Congressional angst over the long awaited implementation of a a biometric exit border system, but highlights the importance contribution a key Beyond the Border (BTB) Action Plan initiative has made towards creating this important border security system.

What’s a biometric exit border system?  Basically, it’s a database system that verifies the identity of individuals who enter and exist the United States by checking their “biometric” (e.g. their fingerprints a facial features) against a biometric database.

Now DHS has created a biometric entry system.  But cost concerns have plagued the creation of a exist system.

But, as El Paso Inc. points out, the Beyond the Border Action Plan has helped the United States get closer to a biometric exist system on for America’s northern border:

John Wagner, acting deputy assistant commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said that upward of $3 billion is needed to operate a biometric exit system at airports alone. Infrastructure and technological limitations presented a problem during the pilot, he said, adding that land ports, including pedestrian crossings and railroads, were not built with exit processing in mind.

“The traveler volume is significantly higher, there are various forms of transportations and there are also major infrastructure obstacles to the collection of an individual’s data upon departure,” Wagner said.

The U.S. and Canada have exchanged entry records under the 2012 Beyond the Border Action Plan. Mexico lacks a similar system of recording entries to the country and therefore no such agreement has been made, DHS officials said.

Rebecca Gambler, director of Homeland Security and Justice at DHS, said there are records of at least a million foreign nationals who entered the country legally for whom DHS has no record of departures or that they obtained permission stay.

Wagner said CBP is working with the science and technology branch of DHS, which will open a facility in early 2014 to test biometric technology. By mid-2015 the agency plans to test a pilot biometric exit system at a mid-size airport yet to be named. Later in the year, the agency said it will have an operational plan with set costs to present to the subcommittee.

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