Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 04032311 (posted Mar. 23, 2004)"
Testimony of Robert Mocny
US-VISIT, Department Of Homeland Security
Directorate of Border and Transportation Security
Before The House Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
March 18, 2004
Chairman Hostettler, Ranking Member Jackson Lee and other distinguished Members, it is a pleasure to appear before you today to discuss the Department of Homeland Security's US-VISIT program and how this fits in with our commitment to protect the homeland.
US-VISIT represents yet another major milestone in enhancing our nation's security and our efforts to reform our borders. It is a major step towards bringing integrity back to our immigration and border enforcement systems.
US-VISIT is a continuum of security measures that begins before an individual enters the United States and continues through arrival and departure from the United States. It incorporates eligibility determinations made by both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State.
Using biometrics such as digital, inkless fingerscans and digital photographs, DHS is able to determine whether the person applying for entry to the United States is the same person who was issued the visa by the Department of State. Additionally, the biometric and biographic data are checked against watch lists, improving the DHS' ability to make admissibility decisions as well as the Department of State's ability to make visa determinations.
US-VISIT procedures are clear, simple, and fast for foreign nationals.
DHS deployed US-VISIT on time, on budget, and has met the mandates established by Congress, as well as the challenge by the Secretary of Homeland Security to incorporate biometrics (fingerscans) into US-VISIT ahead of schedule. By January 5, 2004, US-VISIT entry procedures were operational at 115 airports (covering 99% of air travelers who use nonimmigrant visas to enter the United States) and 14 seaports, and we began pilot testing biometric exit procedures at one airport and one seaport. As of yesterday more than 2 million foreign visitors have been processed under the US-VISIT entry procedures.
Already US-VISIT has prevented over 195 people from entering the United States -
91 were stopped at the overseas visa-issuing post and 60 were identified at the port of entry, all because of a biometric match.
Our border management system impacts the security of our citizens and our visitors, affects billions of dollars in trade and travel and helps define relations with our international partners. There is a need to improve this system and bring it into the 21st century with a new integrated system of technological processes that will keep our country's economic and national security strong. This 21st century technology will provide an important step toward achieving the President's goal of secure U.S. borders.
In just a few months, the first release of US-VISIT has improved the security of our citizens and visitors. It seems clear that visitors appreciate the effort we are making to deliver security while simultaneously facilitating the process for law-abiding, legitimate travelers. US-VISIT is an effective deterrent,[UB1] for its biometric capabilities convince many criminals that they will not be able to hide their true identity.
We must continue to respect our visitors' privacy, treat them fairly, and enable them to pass through inspection quickly so they can enjoy their visit in our country. As people attempt to enter our country, we must know who they are and whether they intend to do us harm, the ability of US-VISIT to rapidly screen applicants' biometrics and biographic information through watch lists and databases means we can have security and control without impeding legitimate travelers, and we can also help protect our welcomed visitors by drastically reducing the possibility of identity theft. Moreover, as visitors leave the country, we must know that they have not overstayed the duration of their visa.
But we are not finished. This is a complicated job that will take time to complete. In fact, US-VISIT is designed to be rolled out in increments to ensure that the foundation is strong and the building blocks are effective. With the deployment of the entry components at air and sea ports, we have made a strong beginning, and going into 2004, we are on track to meet the December 31, 2004 deadline to integrate US-VISIT procedures at the 50 busiest land border ports of entry.
We are seeing that we can accomplish what we set out to do: keep out terrorists, enhance the integrity of our immigration system, facilitate legitimate travel and trade and help protect the privacy and identity of our visitors. To ensure the continued success of this important program, we are working with the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) and with the Departments of Justice, and State to enlarge our capability to identify criminals and terrorist prior to issuing a visa or granting entry to the U.S.
Moving to a "Virtual Border" Solution
The vision of US-VISIT is to deploy an end-to-end border management program.
This comprehensive view of border management leads to a virtual border. It elevates the requirement to develop the best processes to manage data on foreign nationals. It will provide an information-rich solution that better informs the border management decision makers and improves upon the information available to support the pre-entry, entry, status management, exit, and analysis processes.
Much of the emphasis to date on the entry/exit system has focused specifically on the entry and exit processes at the ports of entry - thus the "port-centric" solution. One of the key initiatives of the US-VISIT Program is to adjust this focus to a "virtual border" solution, placing equal emphasis on the pre-entry, entry, status management, exit, and analysis processes associated with this Program. The virtual border will enhance national security by matching the identity of foreign nationals, facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and ensure the integrity of our immigration system by improving enforcement. DOS determines eligibility for a U.S. visa based on a review of all relevant information including information on criminal history and possible terrorism activity.
The Entry Process Will Use Biometrics to Match Identity
For millions of visitors, entry into the U.S. must be preceded by the issuance of travel documents at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The purpose of the pre-entry process is to determine eligibility for immigration status and/or visas at DOS consular offices worldwide or DHS immigration Service Centers.
The pre-entry process is a critical component of the US-VISIT virtual border.
The consular officers gather a large amount of information prior to a foreign national's arrival at a port. This data will now be made available to appropriate border management agencies. In turn, the US-VISIT Program will provide additional information to the consular officer or Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicators who are determining a foreign national's eligibility, including a history of entries and exits, photographs, and fingerscans that can be used to search watch lists.
Since the beginning of 2004, the pre-entry process includes analysis of the manifest supplied by the airlines for each international flight to determine the nonimmigrant visa holders on board the plane. This is done through the Advanced Passenger Information System or APIS. [UB2] This information is used by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers to identify travelers of concern and pre-position information to support the inspectors at the port.
The purpose of the entry process is to determine the admissibility of foreign nationals requesting entry into the U.S. at air, land, or sea ports. The entry process can begin at a primary port inspection booth at an air, sea, or land ports, or at a temporary inspection location such as a ship lounge. Foreign nationals can also be inspected at certain pre-inspection locations overseas, such as Shannon Airport in Ireland.
As part of the US-VISIT entry process, foreign nationals will be required to provide biometric data, biographic data, and/or other documentation, which provides for increased accuracy when making an entry/no exit decision.[UB3] This data is used to match identity, determine proper visa classification, and to query the watch list. Inspectors match identity of each foreign national collected by DOS, and determine the visitor's admissibility.
All ports share similarities in inspection processes and inspectors must quickly conduct a primary inspection and determine if the applicant should be recommended for a more in-depth review at the secondary inspection point. The average primary inspection for foreign nationals, lasts approximately one minute.
Although all inspections involve certain basic tasks, there are marked differences between an inspection conducted at an air or sea port and one conducted at a land port because at a land port you have a very different physical environment. Land ports experience:
- A larger volume of inspections.
- Limited or non-existent advance access to data about approaching pedestrians, passengers, or commercial freight. Multiple modes of transportation, including commercial and private vehicles, buses, trains, and pedestrians. This commingling significantly increases the potential for traffic congestion
- A high volume of commercial freight traffic.
- Local commuters as a majority of persons arriving.
To expedite the flow of traffic at land ports, several technologies have been implemented in recent years that are listed below. With implementation of the virtual border, we will be able to match information on each foreign national when presented for inspection, and determine the risk of allowing entry.
- The Secure Electronic Network for Traveler's Rapid Inspection (SENTRI or Dedicated Commuter Lane)) program uses an electronic, radio frequency (RF)-based technology to enable dedicated commuter lanes. This expedites the flow of low-risk, frequent border crossers through a port while maintaining the security of our borders. Users are pre-enrolled, and extensive background checks are conducted through a network of law enforcement databases. Each time a participant enters through the SENTRI lane, the system automatically accesses the database and displays all persons who are authorized to be in the vehicle. This system is vehicle-based rather than passenger-based and relies on transponders for RF transmission
- NEXUS (License Plate Reader) uses the same RF technology as SENTRI and includes a pre-enrollment process to screen applicants and then issues a proximity card that can be read as the car moves past the inspection station. The inspecting officer makes a positive visual identification of each participant based on the picture and personal information on screen. This system is individual passenger-based as opposed to being vehicle-based and uses proximity card technology for transmission of information.
For land borders, we are considering including expanded use of Radio Frequency (RF) technology to expedite processing of frequent border crossers using biographical data as a part of the virtual border solution. Also, we are currently looking at ways to use RF technology to facilitate travel and collect entry and exit data. To that end, we are planning to test RF technology at select primary entry and exit lanes of the 50 busiest land border crossings. These plans are not part of the statutory mandate for December 31, 2004. Regardless, we will work to optimize the use of RF technology at our land ports of entry such that visitors can pass through the inspection point with minimal
Status Management Includes Identifying Overstays
Managing the status of foreign nationals once inside the borders of the U.S. includes, but is not limited to:
- Monitoring the terms of their admission by matching the entry and exit records to determine if any foreign national has overstayed the terms of admission
- Identifying violations in terms of admission
- Referring watch list and visa compliance leads to agencies and organizations responsible for enforcement.
Maintaining the status of foreign nationals while in the United States is an integral part of border management and ensuring the integrity of the immigration system. One of the US-VISIT Program's primary roles in status management will be the overstay calculation, and exchanging appropriate entry and exit information with case management systems, especially those managed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Exit Process Will Capture Departure Information
With the implementation of US-VISIT's virtual border, the exit process at air and sea ports will require the visa holder to provide information to match against the information provided upon entry. One exit option currently being piloted captures two fingerscans, and transfers the data to IDENT to match the arrival and departure records. This information is also run against ADIS and IBIS.
This one pilot process-consisting of automated kiosks -- is being tested at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and at a Miami Seaport cruise line. US-VISIT will test other departure confirmation alternatives and evaluate all of the options to develop the best exit solution.
Implementation of an exit process at land borders has more complexities and has yet to be determined.
With this virtual border, we will know who left the U.S. through a port of departure and who remains.
The Analysis of Information Process Will Use US-VISIT Information to Extend the Virtual Border
The purpose of the analysis of information process is to provide information that will aid border management in their decision-making process. Currently, the Arrival/Departure Information System (ADIS) system is the primary data source for use in these analyses.
A visitors' information is stored and routinely updated in the ADIS. Information compiled in ADIS will tell the officer if an individual has complied with the terms of his or her admission. ADIS illustrates a visitor's travel history, information that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer can use to make admission determinations. If the history illustrates any immigration violations, the officer would give more scrutiny to the visitor.
As the US-VISIT Program moves into the direction of the virtual border, this process will take on an ever-increasing level of importance. In migrating to the US-VISIT virtual border solution, emphasis will be placed on providing an increased level of information to all border management personnel (e.g., the consular official, the inspector, the adjudicator, and the investigative officer) to aid them in making critical decisions.
We Will Safeguard the Personal Privacy of Our Visitors
An obvious concern for all legitimate travelers is that criminals will use their lost or stolen travel documents to enter the United States. Biometric identifiers make it difficult for criminals to travel on someone else's travel documents. This is a significant benefit that US-VISIT delivers for the millions of legitimate travelers we welcome each year. In addition, we must continue to respect our visitors' privacy.
Additionally, one of US-VISIT's primary goals is to safeguard the personal information in a way that is responsible and respectful of privacy. US-VISIT will collect personal information of visitors in order to determine immigration admissibility. This information will be used for interactions with U.S. officials during the pre-arrival, arrival, stay and exit from the United States.
We are complying with both the letter and the spirit of the Privacy Act of 1974 and the E-Government Act of 2002. We are developing a comprehensive privacy program that ensures that we use personal information appropriately, that it is protected from misuse and improper disclosure, and destroyed when no longer needed.
And, in spite of the fact that these laws do not require US-VISIT to have a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), because a PIA applies to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents versus non-immigrants, we have prepared one as we as we believe that all visitors' information should be protected. The PIA is being reviewed by external audiences including several privacy advocacy groups.
Additionally, we have developed a three-step redress process for visitors to have their records reviewed and amended or corrected to ensure accuracy, relevancy, timeliness, or completeness.
This comprehensive privacy program is being spearheaded by DHS's Chief Privacy Officer, Ms. O'Connor Kelly, to ensure that US-VISIT is in compliance with the appropriate privacy rules and regulations. Also, US-VISIT hired its own privacy officer to oversee its program.
We have also done extensive outreach, meeting with numerous advocacy, privacy and immigration groups to solicit input and hear concerns, which have been taken into account in the development of the program.
The US-VISIT PIA was hailed by many in the privacy community as an excellent model of transparency, including detailed information about the program, the technology and the privacy protections.
US-VISIT's Virtual Border Implementation Schedule
US-VISIT is being implemented in increments, with the first on December 31 of last year. The other increments will be deployed over the coming years with the ultimate goal of having a robust system that can deliver all of the US-VISIT goals. The steps to this program include:
Increment 1 COMPLETED
Increment 2A - 10/26/04:
- Collect and verify biometrics for foreign nationals arriving with nonimmigrant visas at air and seaports of entry by 12/31/03
- Check admissibility against watchlists using biographic and biometric data
- Establish exit pilots and complete testing by end of FY 2004 with implementation to occur in FY 2005.
Increment 2B - 12/31/04:
- Issue U.S. biometric travel documents following International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards
- Deploy capability to read biometric travel documents in compliance with ICAO standards at air and sea ports of entry.
Increment 3 - 12/31/05:
- Extend Increment 1 capability to 50 highest volume land ports
- Extend Increment 2B to remaining land ports
- Launch initial roll-out of US-VISIT envisioned program
We deployed US-VISIT on budget and on schedule. During Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 we used appropriated funds of $367 million to achieve successful deployment to 115 airports and 14 seaports. Specifically we have:
- Implemented/interfaced systems to reduce redundancy and make more information available
- Upgraded our infrastructure to support added biometrics
- Deployed the US-VISIT program to 115 airports and 14 seaports on January 5, 2004
- Initiated the exit pilot at one airport and one seaport
- Established the US-VISIT program office
During FY 2004, we have a total of $328 million plus an additional $10 million in no-year funds that we intend to use to continue meeting our goals. Currently, our FY 2004 Expenditure Plan is approved by the U.S. Senate and waiting approval from the U.S. House of Representatives, and when these funds are released we plan to:
- Analyze, field test, and initiate deployment of alternative approaches for verifying identity on exit at air and sea ports of entry
- Implement US-VISIT Increment 1 capabilities at the 50 busiest land border ports of entry by December 2004
- Install biometric readers at all air, sea, and land ports of entry
- Continue building our program management capabilities
In addition, we plan to award a contract to a prime contractor for further development of our end vision. This comprehensive approach to border management will lead to the creation of a virtual border and will set the course for improved processes for management of data on foreign visitors.
The Success Stories of US-VISIT
Since US-VISIT entry procedures were implemented, it has resulted in the interception of dozens of individuals who matched various law enforcement information. These included rapists, drug traffickers, credit card and visa fraud criminals, and a convicted armed robber.
Here are details of a few examples.
1) Interception of Drug Trafficker who escaped from Prison
On January 14, 2004, at Miami International Airport, a man from Peru was traveling to the U.S. When he arrived at the CBP Officer's booth for admittance, he was enrolled in US-VISIT. His fingerscans matched the ones already in a federal criminal database. This man was wanted by the U.S. Marshals for escaping from LaTuna Federal Correction Facility where he had been serving a sentence for a conviction of dealing cocaine. After his escape, an arrest warrant was issued. In May of 2003 he re-entered the U.S. without incident. Now, with the help of US-VISIT biometric processes, this man was caught and returned to federal prison on the warrant. US-VISIT prevented an escaped convict and drug trafficker from roaming the streets of Miami.
2) Closing a Deportation Loop Hole
On January 18, 2004, a man who has had four aliases tried to enter the U.S., even with a "failure to appear" warrant for him. DHS/ICE issued the warrant on August 8, 2003, and since then this man had entered the U.S. at least five times. Now, with the ability to match fingerscans with those in a criminal database, this man's luck ran out. He was removed from the U.S. and put on the next flight back to Colombia.
3) Passport Fraud Uncovered
On January 14, 2004, a British West Indies Airways flight arrived at JFK International Airport in New York carrying a woman from Trinidad. Because US-VISIT begins at the visa-issuing post, a photo of the visitor was on file and accessible by the Customs and Border Protection Officer, who determined that she had used a false name. In reality, the traveler was a woman who had been arrested in April 2000 in New Orleans and convicted of passport fraud. At that time, the woman was placed on five years' probation and ordered not to enter the U.S. without the attorney general's written permission. The woman, whose husband lives in the U.S., then obtained a pa
ssport and U.S. visa by fraud in Trinidad for $2,000.
4) Convicted Sexual Offender Identified
In New York City, on February 19, 2004, a native of Trinidad and Tobago attempted to enter the United States. He was not listed as wanted for any crimes after standard biographic criminal data systems checks, but a biometric check under US-VISIT uncovered a prior conviction for having sex with a minor in 2000, his registration as a convicted sex offender, and a removal from the United States in 2001 as an aggravated felon. He had also lived and worked illegally in the United States. He was placed in expedited removal proceedings.
5) Rape Suspect Caught
On February 22, 2004, at Miami International Airport, a man from Jamaica attempted to enter the United States after arriving on an Air Jamaica flight. Biographic and US-VISIT biometric checks alerted officers to an active warrant from New York City for strong armed rape. Criminal history checks also uncovered 3 prior convictions for possession or sale of marijuana in 1994 and 1995, as well as a 1998 rape arrest. He was turned over to Miami-Dade police for extradition to New York.
A CBP Trainee Rises to the Occasion
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Trainee Rafal Izycki was working at primary inspection at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. An Albanian national seeking admission into the U.S. appeared before him and presented an Albanian passport. When Inspector Izycki compared the State Department photo image biometric provided by US-VISIT against the biometrics photographs on the passport and visa, he realized that the person in front of him was not the person who had obtained the visa. He immediately referred the Albanian national for a secondary inspection where it was determined that the passport had been photo-substituted and the non-immigrant visa had been altered. The capability to access the State Department biometric photographs of visa applicants provides a powerful tool for inspectors working to protect the U.S.
An Update on US-VISIT Program Office
Secretary Ridge approved the creation of a US-VISIT program office, and positions have been approved to fill the organization and manage the program. The US-VISIT program team consists of representatives from the various components of DHS responsible for border security, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Transportation Security Administration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is also represented. Other DHS components that assist the US-VISIT team include the Directorate for Management and the Science and Technology Division. In addition, outside DHS, the team consists of representatives from the
Departments of Transportation, State, Commerce, Justice, and General Services Administration.
US-VISIT is critical to our national security as well as our economic security, and its implementation is already making a significant contribution to the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to provide a safer and more secure America. But US-VISIT and the broader vision of a 'virtual border' cannot be left unfinished. It is the correct program at the right time, not only for the security of our country, but also for the integrity of our immigration system. We will build upon the initial framework and solid foundation to ensure that we continue to meet our goals to enhance the security of our citizens and visitors while facilitating travel for the millions of visitors we welcome each year.
We want to ensure that we continue to be a welcoming nation, a nation that invites visitors to study, do business, and relax in our country. We also owe it to our citizens and visitors to deny entry to persons wishing to do harm, or who are inadmissible to the U.S. Few would dispute that these steps are necessary. These steps will be made easier because of US-VISIT and the information
We are committed to building a program that enhances the integrity of our immigration system by catching the few and expediting the many, and we recognize that the U.S. is leading the way in helping other countries around the world keep their doors open and their borders secure.