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DHS audit urges upgrade of biometric vetting for noncitizens and asylum seekers

DHS audit urges upgrade of biometric vetting for noncitizens and asylum seekers

A recent audit by the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) has called for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve its screening and vetting processes for noncitizens applying for admission into the United States and for asylum seekers with long-pending applications.

The report highlights several shortcomings in the current procedures and technologies used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Despite deploying new technologies like Simplified Arrival to enhance traveler screening, CBP lacks access to all necessary federal data for thorough vetting, according to the report. Additionally, inconsistencies in inspection procedures for vehicle arrivals at land ports of entry and the absence of biometric matching capabilities in these contexts further weaken the screening process.

The audit reveals that CBP lacks the technology to perform biometric matching on travelers arriving in vehicles at land ports of entry, and has recommended that the office of biometric identity management should collaborate with the Department of Defense to resolve automated biometric identification system data access restrictions. It also suggested for there to be continued technology testing to identify a solution for biometric matching at land port vehicle lanes.

“We attribute CBP’s inability to access certain Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) and Biometrically Enabled Watchlist (BEWL) data to ongoing technical limitations that continued to impede data-sharing capabilities. The current interconnection between IDENT and ABIS did not resolve all technical limitations because ABIS was unable to support CBP’s daily average of 360,000 IDENT search transactions,” the report notes.

Between 2018 and 2023, CBP implemented Simplified Arrival, improving automated processing at air and land ports of entry. The technology includes instant facial comparison capabilities, significantly enhancing identity verification processes. As of March 2023, the facial comparison technology had a technical match rate of 99.7% for air entries and 98.8% for pedestrian land entries, identifying 1,767 impostors by April 2023.

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