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Testimony of Robert Jacksta on “US-VISIT

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 04032216 (posted Mar. 22, 2004)"

Testimony of Robert Jacksta
Executive Director of Border Security and Facilitation Office of Field Operations
Before The House Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
March 18, 2004 - 10:00 AM

Chairman Hostettler and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to testify. I am Robert Jacksta, Executive Director for Border Security and Facilitation, Office of Field Operations. I would like to discuss the efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to secure our borders against terrorism and other criminal threats and how CBP has incorporated US-VISIT as a tool in this process.

Prior to integration into the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Customs Service historically shared the responsibility of protecting our borders with multiple agencies, our closest partner in this endeavor being the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Since March 1, 2003, the border enforcement functions of the INS and Customs, along with the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Quarantine Inspections have been merged into one border control agency, CBP. Through CBP, all people and goods entering the United States through one of over 300 land, air, or seaports of entry into the U.S. from foreign countries are subject to inspection. In fiscal year 2003, more than 400 million people passed through these ports into the United States.

CBP is committed to programs aimed at efficiently and reliably identifying compliant travelers while ensuring that all travelers are screened appropriately. The US-VISIT program has integrated well into CBP's existing programs to accomplish this goal. CBP has been a full working partner with the US-VISIT Program Office within the Department of Homeland Security, and has committed to implement each phase of the US-VISIT mandate.

We have also been working with the Department of State, the Department of Justice, and other federal agencies and have made great strides in improving overall border management through the collection of pre-arrival, arrival, and departure information on international travelers. To this end, CBP has been able to integrate US-VISIT with other CBP processes to increase the effectiveness of border management which includes biometric and biographical checks against law enforcement databases.

In the fall of last year, in anticipation of US-VISIT implementation, 2,100 new workstations and document readers were deployed to each of the 115 airports and 14 seaports where US-VISIT is now in place. CBP has trained 4,700 Officers in the US-VISIT process and implemented changes to include US-VISIT as part of the initial CBP Officers training at the academy in Glynco, Georgia.

Since the initiation of US-VISIT on January 5, 2004, CBP has processed over 2 million travelers through US-VISIT, with no interruption in the facilitation of legitimate travelers into the United States. There have been 195 verified lookout matches with the use of US-VISIT. Those matches have enabled CBP to intercept rapists, drug traffickers, perpetrators of credit card fraud, and convicted armed robbers. Others who had been previously deported or denied entry and attempted to reenter using another alias have been intercepted and prevented from entering the country.

One of CBP's important tools is the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) which allows the traveler's biographical data to be collected and vetted through law enforcement databases prior to their arrival. The biometrics collected upon arrival through the US-VISIT process allows CBP to verify the identity of the individual for whom the APIS data was submitted and identify those who may be utilizing multiple identities or false documents. We have also provided important training to our Officers including Anti-Terrorism training, interviewing techniques and document fraud.

With the integration of advance technology, multi-agency coordination, and front line CBP Officer intuition, we have enhanced the security and safety of citizens, residents and visitors.

CBP's integration of US-VISIT at ports of entry has not come at the expense of legitimate travel. The US-VISIT process of capturing biometrics, two fingerscans and a digital photo, takes less then 15 seconds. The Automated Biometric Identification System that stores this data, called IDENT, takes only seconds to capture the person's information. Overall processing of those travelers subject to US-VISIT has not significantly impacted flight processing. On the average, most flights are processed in less than 45 minutes; which is about the same time it took before we implemented US-VISIT.

As we assist US-VISIT in meeting the next phase of mandates in the initiative, CBP will continue to leverage our existing programs, including Dedicated Commuter Lanes such as NEXUS and SENTRI, License Plate Reader programs, Free and Secure Trade and the Biometrics Verification System.

In summary, the US-VISIT process at airports and seaports has demonstrated its capability to enhance the security of our citizens and visitors, facilitate legitimate travel and trade, ensure the integrity of the immigration system and safeguard the personal information of visitors from theft or misuse. In just the first two months, the first release of US-VISIT has improved the security of our citizens and visitors. CBP Officers have said that the new tools we have put in place truly help them do their job more effectively.

Thank you again, Chairman Hostettler and members of the Sub-Committee, for giving U.S. Customs and Border Protection this opportunity to testify. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.