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Biometric Exit Needs a Nudge from Congress

Amongst grumblings that immigration reform will likely not go anywhere this year, there is a whispering that a small but important immigration security law – biometric exit – may receive a big vote of confidence in the House this session. Rumors are emerging that Speaker Boehner may be willing to move a biometric exit bill separate from immigration reform as a shot in the arm to the Department of Homeland Security now finally moving on doing some testing on air biometric exit technologies at a secure location. New legislation would provide much needed props to border security advocates unhappy with failure to implement the series of exit laws passed over the past 18 years.

The difference between the passage of biometric exit legislation now and 2007 (when the most recent of the biometric exit bills became law) is that today, feasibility is proven and costs much reduced. Today’s biometric solutions can range in speed from 2 to 20 seconds (as opposed to more than a minute in processing in the last government biometric exit testing in 2009). The cost for technology implementation and integration is low. Our estimate, using industry numbers and key essentials from a 2008 DHS economic impact study, is a total of $400 million to $600 million to deploy at the top 50 airports and top seaports. Moreover, 16 other nations prove feasibility beyond a reasonable doubt, with the latest technologies in biometric borders leading the way in the where, hows, and whats of fast, dependable and successful deployment.

The new nonprofit trade association, the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA), fully supports full deployment of the 9/11 Commission recommendation of biometric borders. SIBA also recognizes that the latest technologies are the game changer, bringing possibility to reality around the world, and quickly leaving the United States in the dust in showcasing itself as premier in both security and facilitation. Fact is, many travelers coming to America now will have already experienced biometric airline check-in and boarding or border e-Gates or kiosks, biometric iris, fingerprint, or face scans that are faster and better than what the United States has in place at entry now.

The United States really has no more excuses left. And neither does DHS. A little push from Congress could go a long way in showing that immigration issues matter, and so does our security.

For more SIBA comments on biometric exit legislation passage, see SIBA’s press release last week on the subject. Also see a summary of the full House Judiciary hearing on November 13, 2013 on biometric cost and feasibility, where I testified on my report.

Janice Kephart writes on border and identity security and programs, especially as they pertain to terrorist travel, as well as leadership and organizational issues at DHS. Kephart is founder of the Secure Identity and Biometrics Association (SIBA). Read More