Facial and eye scans being trialed at Mexican border

On Thursday the US government started to collect eye and facial scans of foreigners entering the United States via a busy US-Mexico border crossing. This is the first step towards realizing an ambitious effort to track those who continue to remain in the country illegally following the expiry of their US visas.

Around 50% of all undocumented immigrants in the United States are believed to have illegally stayed after their visas have expired, with the authorities unable to identify these individuals due to the lack of any kind of checkout system. Now Customs and Border Protection is trying to change this by starting to scan foreigners who enter the country via the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego. The same information will be collected on those who walk into Mexico via the checkpoint from February.

The trial is expected to last until the end of next June and will help the authorities to decide whether to expand the screenings to include all foreigners at every land crossing on the border with Mexico. The accuracy of the cameras will be one of the factors being looked at very closely by the authorities.

“It’s basically to verify that the same person that came to the United States is the same person that’s exiting the United States,” says Otay Mesa’s assistant director, Joe Misenhelter. Congress has long wanted to see biometric screenings, such as eye scans, facial images and fingerprints, used at border checkpoints; however, logistical and financial issues have posed problems.