U.S. Homeland Security collecting migrant biometrics in Mexico

U.S. Homeland Security collecting migrant biometrics in Mexico

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has installed “scores” of screening terminals in detention centers to collect biometric data from tens of thousands of migrants, mostly Central Americans, arrested in Mexico, the Washington Post reports.

U.S. officials have collected fingerprints, iris scans, and data on identifying features such as tattoos and scars from people arrested in Mexico City and Tapachula, in Southern Mexico, and according to the Post, the government is negotiating with other countries in Central America to do the same in them. It also plans to expand the program in Mexico to collect biometrics in Tijuana, Mexicali, and Reynosa this month. The information collected is sent to DHS and other databases operated by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence, and identifies convicted criminals and “Special Interest Aliens.”

The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has budgeted $75 million to install systems at jails and provide mobile terminals, payed for from the $2.5 billion Merida security assistance program launched in 2008 under U.S. President George W. Bush. The program gives U.S. officials access to Mexican facilities far beyond what was imagined at the time, and Mexican authorities have generally avoided the topic, the Post reports.

Former head of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield told the Post that development of the biometric program’s software and other technology began in 2012, and that its implementation was agreed to in a bilateral security meeting in 2014.

In the last 13 months, biometric data has been collected from 30,000 migrants.

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