January 30, 2017 -
President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, which proposes that all non-citizens be subjected to biometric checks when entering or leaving the United States, could lead to widespread logistical issues, according to a report by the Georgia Straight.
The executive order calls for a U.S. ban on all visitors with visas from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as a national biometric ID program for non-citizens entering and leaving the U.S.
Section 7 of the executive order, titled “Expedited Completion of Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System”, recommends that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security completes and implements “a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States”.
The proposal’s inclusion is the result of a recommendation from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States.
The DHS must submit its first report on biometrics within 100 days of the executive order, followed up by another report in 200 days with additional summary reports submitted annually, according to the executive order.
In addition, Section 8 of the executive order states that any individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa to the United States will be required to undergo an in-person interview.
“As far as the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System is concerned, this is pretty much the second piece of what is already in place today when you enter the U.S. and have your fingerprint and picture taken (at least as a foreign visitor),” says the LoyaltyLobby travel website. “Having an immigration counter upon exiting the country would basically just reconcile the information with what you gave when you came in.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian government website states that its visa officers already use biometrics to confirm a person’s identity before granting a visa or a study or work permit.
Peace Bridge Authority general manager Ron Rienas says the logistical issues caused by the mandatory biometrics would lead to significant traffic congestion at the Canadian border, according to a report by Buffalo News.
“This would just devastate Western New York,” said Rienas. “It would shut down the border. It just makes no sense.”
Rep. Brian Higgins (D) said that implementation of the proposal would require the cooperation of the Canadian government,
“In support of a strong, secure and efficient border, both Canada and the United States already securely share entry records of approximately 16,000 to 19,000 travelers daily, with no impact on the traveler experience,” Christine Constantin, a spokesperson at the Canadian embassy in Washington, said in a statement. “We are aware of President Trump’s executive orders and will continue to track them.”
According to report by Reuters, former President Barack Obama’s administration had aimed to have a biometric exit checking system in place at the largest airports in the U.S. by 2018.
Some experts have said that the system would be a huge undertaking as it would have to cover all land, air, and sea ports of entry.
The Bipartisan Policy Center released a report in 2014 that stated the system would be costly to implement and would “offer mixed value for enforcement objectives.”