By Christopher Rivera
On December 10th 2015, Customs and Border Protection began using new biometric technology at Otay Mesa pedestrian crossing, in San Diego, for Non-U.S. citizens entering and exiting the U.S. According to cbp.gov the project will be in two phases; the first phase took place on December 10th in which certain Non-U.S. citizens used new kiosks, in the pedestrian lanes, with biometric capture technology to provide a facial photograph and iris images. The second phase will begin in February with “with biographic data provided from everyone departing the United States similar to the information provided when departing by air.” The test will run until June 2016.
The reason for this new approach, in a technology that seems to come straight out a sci-fi movie, is to crack down on immigrants who are in the United States on expired visas. In a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2006, it was estimated that about 40 to 50 percent of people who are in the country illegally are here on expired visas. With the recent approach authorities have no way to identify them because they lack a check out system.
The trial system will last until June, and authorities will see if it will expand to foreigners at all crossings on the 1,954 mile border with Mexico.
Congress has long demanded a biometric system but it poses huge financial and logistical challengers.
One traveler, Rosendo Hernandez of Tijuana, said, “It’s very fast, not inconvenient in the least.”
Joe Misenhelter, assistant director at Otay Mesa, the nation’s fourth-busiest port of entry last year, said “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.”
Although people view this form of technology as a step in the right direction, like Marc Rosenblum, deputy director for U.S. immigration policy at the Migration Policy Institute, who said the effort aims to fix “the biggest deficiency in the whole system.” Others view it with some skepticism, like Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, who said that facial and eye scans may open the doors for countries to do the same to American visitors.