U.S. tries exit tracking system at two airports (5/28/09) —

The Homeland Security Department launched test programs at two airports Thursday in an attempt to verify when foreigners and legal permanent residents leave the country, but federal officials remain at odds with the airline industry over the effort.

The objective is to develop a system in which fingerprints are collected at every airport from non-U.S. citizens departing the United States. The fingerprints would be used to verify that visitors have not overstayed the time they are allowed to remain in the country.

Officials from the airline industry and the department dispute each other’s account of why the airline test is not being done.

“We can say with complete confidence that since Congress called for the trials late last year, DHS has never contacted us to cooperate on an airline test,” said Steve Lott, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. “It’s not that we are resisting help. Frankly, they haven’t asked us yet. Why not? I don’t know.”

But Robert Mocny, director of the program, known as US-VISIT, said the airlines refused to participate in the test program.

“We’ve been reaching out to them for months and they have completely refused,” Mocny said. “They have a very concerted effort to not participate.”