San Antonio Express News: U.S. works to advance entry/exit program

On March 9, 2012 reports:

Ever since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created after 9/11, Texas business leaders along the border have been on edge.

DHS made it plain about eight years ago that it wanted to identify foreigners entering the country in a way that could verify foreigners when they left the United States — so that the government could detect who is overstaying their visas. To achieve that goal, DHS started a program called US-VISIT that compiles information about who enters and when.

DHS has been seeking to expand on that program by verifying foreigner entries and exits with technology using biometrics, either a thumbprint and/or a retina scan.

DHS has long wanted to use the technology at airports, seaports and land ports. But so far, the biometrics part hasn’t materialized. It was too expensive and too unwieldy in practice.  Read more …

Boston Globe/AP: NY immigrant advocates criticize Border Patrol

“BUFFALO, N.Y.—Immigrant rights advocates and the New York Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday accused the Border Patrol in upstate New York of abusing its authority by questioning the citizenship of train and bus passengers, as well as people going about their business in towns miles away from any international crossing.

A report based on a Freedom of Information request suggests agents charged with securing the U.S.-Canadian border have taken advantage of their 100-mile area of jurisdiction to snare and deport illegal immigrants who have been in the country for years, using police-state tactics that allow them to boost arrest rates and justify increased funding.” Read more …

DMN Editorial: Border Patrol should not get a 100-mile exclusive zone

"You may not have heard of the Sonoran Pronghorn antelope, the lesser long-nosed bat or the desert pupfish. But you should be comforted to know that the federal bureaucracy has tried to make sure that the fight against human smugglers and drug couriers along the U.S.-Mexico border does not come at the expense of these and other endangered creatures or their sensitive environment.

How? Surveillance towers are designed to minimize the threat to bats and birds. Wires carrying electricity are buried so as to prevent electrocution. In some places, officials are required to look under heavy construction equipment before moving it to make sure tortoises haven’t sought shelter in the shade.

Is this overkill? We don’t think so. A memorandum of understanding reached under the Bush administration established a protocol to deal with the complex mission of securing the border without doing undue harm to the environment. Among other things, the system has allowed the Border Patrol to set up operations in officially declared wilderness areas, which under normal conditions are off limits to everyone and everything."  Read more …

 

APNewsBreak: US northern border checks scaled back

"SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Border Patrol has quietly stopped its controversial practice of routinely searching buses, trains and airports for illegal immigrants at transportation hubs along the northern border and in the U.S. interior, preventing agents from using what had long been an effective tool for tracking down people here illegally, The Associated Press has learned.

Current and former Border Patrol agents said field offices around America began receiving the order last month — soon after the Obama administration announced that to ease an overburdened immigration system, it would allow many illegal immigrants to remain in the country while it focuses on deporting those who have committed crimes.

The routine bus, train and airport checks typically involved agents milling about and questioning people who appeared suspicious, and had long been criticized by immigrant rights groups. Critics said the tactic amounted to racial profiling and violated travelers' civil liberties.

But agents said it was an effective way to catch unlawful immigrants, including smugglers and possible terrorists, who had evaded detection at the border, as well as people who had overstayed their visas. Often, those who evade initial detection head quickly for the nearest public transportation in hopes of reaching other parts of the country." Read more …