Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has proposed to revise its congressionally mandated biometric-based entry and exit system to include the collection of biometrics from vehicles at land Ports of Entry (PoE) the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced. The border control agency said its additional request for collection of vehicle biometrics “will not impose a time burden on the respondents and may reduce wait times at the ports of entry and exit.”
At the same time, CBP has extended the expiration date for the general public and other federal agencies to comment on the proposed and/or continuing biometric information collections “with a change to the burden hours due to an increase in the number of respondents in agency estimates and separating the different biometric modalities,” CBP said.
CBP’s biometric based entry and exit system is being designed to improve the information resources available to immigration and border management decision-makers.
President Trump admonished DHS to accelerate the plan in his January 2017 executive order on immigration.
CBP says, “These biometrics may include: Digital fingerprint scans, facial images, iris images or other biometrics. Biometrics may be collected from travelers entering or exiting the United States. CBP will store and use biometric data from those aliens specified in 8 CFR 215.8 and 8 CFR 235.1 in order to verify identity, determine admissibility of those seeking entry into the United States, confirm exit from the United States for the purpose of tracking aliens who have overstayed their visa or are otherwise illegally present in the United States, prevent visa fraud, and identify known or suspected criminals or terrorists.”
CBP is still testing and evaluating “different technological and operational changes to improve the accuracy and speed of biometric collection.”
CBP said it “will be submitting its information collection request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995,” and that the information collection will be published in the Federal Register to obtain comments from the public and affected agencies.
CBP asked OMB for a “60-day notice and request for comments; revision and extension of an existing collection of information.” At that time, “Comments are encouraged and will be accepted July 24, 2018 to be assured of consideration,” CBP said.
“Written comments and suggestions from the public and affected agencies should address one or more of the following four points,” CBP said: Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; suggestions to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and, suggestions to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses.
“The comments that are submitted will be summarized and included in the request for approval. All comments will become a matter of public record,” CBP said.
Biometric Update recently reported that CBP’s efforts to develop and implement a biometric exit capability is being investigated by DHS’s Inspector General (IG) to “assess whether biometric data collected at [CBP] pilot locations has improved DHS’s ability to verify departures” in order to secure and manage US borders, the IG announced.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) had noted in its February 27, 2017 audit report, DHS Has Made Progress in Planning for a Biometric Air Exit System and Reporting Overstays, but Challenges Remain, that, “As CBP is in the process of finalizing its approach, it is too early to assess the agency’s plans for developing and implementing a biometric exit capability and the extent to which those plans will address identified challenges.”
DHS stated it is using a biometric verification system to confirm the departure of selected travelers at one airport and released its 2016 overstays report in late February 2017, according to GAO, which reported on CBP’s progress in its 2017 audit report. But the IG’s office has now gotten involved to investigate CBP’s problems with the program.
The IG’s recently initiated audit of CBP’s progress was opened to investigate CBP’s progress, widespread implementation plan, and continuing problems the program has and when they will be resolved.
Since GAO’s initial 2013 report on DHS’s efforts to develop a biometric exit capability to collect biometric data, such as fingerprints, from individuals exiting the United States, “CBP has been conducting four pilot programs to inform the development and implementation of a biometric exit system,” GAO said in its 2017 audit report.
At that time, GAO said, “CBP has made progress in testing biometric exit capabilities, but various longstanding planning, infrastructure, and staffing challenges continue to affect CBP’s efforts to develop and implement a biometric exit system.”