Proposed new immigration entry/exit enforcement system: is this too intrusive?

They must record the I-94 number somewhere on arrival, but I don’t know the mechanics of how/where the info is stored. I also don’t think the I-94 is machine-readable in any useful way. I never did understand why the system hasn’t ben more mechanized until now.

**sailor, ** isn’t it past your bedtime? Or are you in Rome and therefore doing what the Romans do?


More details on U.S. VISIT, from Interpreter Releases issue no. 80, pp. 1512-1513, Nov. 3, 2003. Let’s revisit the issue, shall we?

“The Dept. of Homeland Security…recently provided an update on plans to launch the US-VISIT entry-exit system. Many of the entry procedures in place today will remain unchanged; the exit procedures at airports and seaports will be phased in, becoming operational in 2004…

…The DHS said that entry enhancements, such as the taking of inkless fingerprints (two index fingers) and digital photographs, will be operative in 115 airports and 14 major seaports by early 2004. Exit procedures will be phased in and operational in early 2004. Visitors requiring a visa to travel to the U.S. who leave from one of these sea or airports will check out via a self-service kiosk to confirm their compliance with immigration policies, the DHS said. Entry-exit enhancements at land borders will be phased in throughout 2005 and 2006.

The DHS noted that U.S. citizens will not be required to b electronically fingerprinted or photographed upon entering the U.S., although U.S. citizens wishing to participate in dedicated commuter lane programs…or other expedited processing programs may voluntarily submit biographic and biometric data to expedite their travel. The DOS [Dept. of State] will begin issuing machine-readable U.S. passports including facial recognition technology in the future. Facial recognition technology was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the globally interoperable biometric for identity verification in travel documents. Also, the U.S. has existing agreements with Canada and, under current policy, most Canadians are not subject to US-VISIT…

The DHS said that under the US-VISIT program, initially, biometrics from visitors with nonimmigrant visas will be captured. As the program evolves, it “may be expanded in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, in order to meet national needs,” the DHS said. Information in the system will be available to U.S. Customs and Border Protection [formerly Customs and INS inspections staff, now combined into one agency under DHS] officers at ports of entry, special U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, adjudications staff at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices, and U.S. consular offices, as well as appropriate federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel.”

There is also an extensive discussion of phasing out the much-criticized Special Registration program for nationals of certain countries with primarily Muslim populations as U.S. VISIT is phased in. (Not all of it; they will still require these people to register upon entry and at the 30-day and one-year marks after entry, but there would be no more mass annual calls for all people covered by the NSEERS registration requirements to go down to their local immigration offices.)

Also, all entry-exit records for the Visa Waiver Program would be incorporated into this program.

Now I can see several potential holes in this idea:

  • Any nationals of Canada or Visa Waiver countries (most of Western Europe, plus Japan, Australia, and a couple of other places) are not currently required to obtain visas before short business or tourist trips to the U.S., so they would not be covered by this new program. It is unclear how their departure information would be recorded at all, and it doesn’t appear that their biometric data would be verified at all except if the DHS inspections officer feels like looking at their passport picture. (Many of my Canadian clients, disturbingly, report that they are still frequently waved across the border without even a glance at the passport photo, much less any record being made of entries and exits.) Also, many people who are nationals of Canada/Visa Waiver countries are naturalized citizens who were born elsewhere, sometimes in the countries DHS is “worried” about.

  • The whole concept of being “worried” about people based more or less solely on their country of origin really bothers the crap out of me anyway. I can understand using it as one criterion in a sensible profiling method, but currently the U.S. is essentially unable to deal with the amount of data it already collects in any useful-intelligence-related way. So why is the solution to collect more data?

  • I don’t know off the top of my head how many total airport, land, and sea border entry-exit points there are, and I can see the wisdom of starting with the most trafficked ones first, but this gradual implementation seems like it would leave a lot of holes at less-trafficked spots. All you’d have to do is come in at some dinky roadside inspection station in Vermont, flash a Canadian passport, and the inspector will probably yawn and wave you right through.

  • What are they going to do during the inevitable system breakdowns? What process will there be for reconciling the inevitable errors and cases of mistaken identity?

  • How are you going to safeguard the security of these “self-service” check-out stations to prevent swapping of people and documents?

Anything I’m missing here?