According to the Chicago Tribune, the federal government began collecting facial and eye scans of foreigners entering the U.S. at a busy border crossing with Mexico, on Thursday December 10th.
This is the very first step in one of its most ambitious efforts to track people who stay in the U.S. illegally after their visas expire. Up to half of the people in the U.S. illegally are believed to have overstayed their visas, but the absence of a checkout system has left authorities with no way to identify them.
In a push to change that, Customs and Border Protection began scanning foreigners entering on foot at San Diego’s Otay Mesa port of entry. In February 2016, it will start collecting the same information on foreigners walking into Mexico through the checkpoint.
The trial run, which will last through June 2016, will help determine if authorities expand screening to foreigners at all land crossings on the 1,954-mile border with Mexico. Authorities will look at the accuracy of the cameras.
On Thursday, foreigners put their travel documents on a reader at one of the San Diego crossing’s six kiosks and looked into a camera positioned at arms’ length. The process took seconds. Then, they walked a few steps to a border inspector for questioning.
“It’s very fast, not inconvenient in the least,” said Rosendo Hernandez of Tijuana, who was on a trip to buy tools.
“It’s basically to verify that the same person that came to the United States is the same person that’s exiting the United States,” said Joe Misenhelter, assistant director at Otay Mesa, the nation’s fourth-busiest port of entry last year.
Starting in February, U.S. citizens heading to Mexico on foot will use a separate lane at the California crossing with scanners that collect biographic information, including name and birth date, but not biometrics, Misenhelter said. They won’t have to stop if their travel documents are chip-enabled.
Marc Rosenblum, deputy director for U.S. immigration policy at the Migration Policy Institute, said the effort aims to fix “the biggest deficiency in the whole system.”
“It’s a huge deal,” he said. “What they likely hope is this could be a fast exit check that won’t be terribly expensive or time-consuming to implement.”
Biometric screening has raised objections from privacy advocates who worry authorities may misuse the information or make it vulnerable to identity theft. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said facial and eye scans may open the door for countries to do the same on American visitors.
Screening also has fueled concerns among businesses and travelers who fear bottlenecks at already congested crossings.
“We have historically controlled our borders coming in but not out,” said Jim Williams, a former Department of Homeland Security official who oversaw efforts to introduce biometric screening at border crossings from 2003 to 2006. “It’s been a lack of infrastructure and lack of investment.”
A 2006 study by Pew Hispanic Center estimated that between 40 percent and 50 percent of people in the country illegally overstayed visas — a figure that is generally accepted by immigration experts but notoriously difficult to pin down. The Center for Migration Studies estimates that more people stayed on expired visas than entered the country illegally from 2008 to 2012.
Between 7,000 and 8,000 pedestrians cross at Otay Mesa daily from Tijuana, and slightly less than half of them are U.S. citizens, Misenhelter said. Several had no objections to being scanned.
Marta Alicia Castillo of Ensenada, Mexico, who was headed to a casino, said it was seamless but that Americans should acknowledge that Mexico has the right to demand similar information from visitors if it chooses.
“If you’re visiting a foreign country, they set the rules and you have to obey them,” she said.
more recommended stories
Logos Hope: world’s largest floating bookstore conquers Progreso, Yucatán
A large number of people have.
North American companies see investment opportunities in Yucatan
As of June 25, Courtney Beale.
Lobster production declines in the coast of Yucatán
Three weeks after the lobster harvest.
X’ocen: a rural community where Maya ancestral ceremonies still very much alive
X’ocen is a pre-Hispanic sanctuary, and.
Oil auctions in Mexico postponed until February
According to REUTERS, Mexican oil auctions.
Zapatista rebels reject meeting with López Obrador
Mexico’s leftist President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez.
Municipal crews work 24/7 to keep sargassum off the beach in Cancun
“The cleaning works carried out since.
Yucatecan enterpreneurs seek to strengthen local productivity with “Tech Day”
In order to strengthen partnerships, and.
Catalog highlights relevance of the flower in Mexican Culture
The flower, addressed as a substantive.
19th edition of the International Jazz Festival of Campeche features world-class artists
Campeche will present its International Jazz.