The Department of Homeland Security has conducted a pilot project with Canada to track immigrants who arrived in the U.S. on tourist visas or other legal means but overstayed their visas.
The project, conducted from September of last year to January, relied on Canada providing official exit records from border passport control checks that the U.S. could then check against entry records. It has brought the U.S. a step closer to being able to find and deport illegal immigrants, 30 to 40 percent of whom arrived legally, The New York Times reported Wednesday
"The pilot was a success," David Heyman, assistant secretary for policy at the Homeland Security Department, said in a statement. "We have the ability now to identify, with a high degree of certainty, on a real-time basis, those who overstay the terms of their legal entry into the United States."
One weakness of the system tested with Canada is that it relies on "biographic" information such as a passport photo, name and date of birth, instead of a more rigorous system based on "biometric" data, such as fingerprints, for example, according to the Times. Though
Congress has been pushing for biometric-based exit systems at all land borders and airports since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, some lawmakers have balked at the estimated $25 billion it would cost.
But Sen. Chuck Schumer, defends the pilot program with Canada, saying, "No system is 100 percent fail proof. This system comes as close to any to making it work."
The hope is that a similar program can be rolled out at some point to help monitor the coming and goings of immigrants and visitors along the U.S.-Mexico border, which accounts for the largest flow of illegal immigrants. But Mexico does not yet collect and store the personal data of every person that crosses its border from the U.S.
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