Biometric US-Mexico Border Deployment Could Stir Controversy

global biometricsThe US Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) is getting ready to test a biometric identification program on visa-holding workers at the US-Mexico border in Otay Mesa, San Diego. Called the Pedestrian Border Experiment, the program will use facial and iris recognition.

It’s a pilot project that is expected to last about two months, its objective being to assess the feasibility of using face and iris scanning systems to identify and track non-US citizens entering and exiting the country from Mexico. The CBP’s long-term aim is to use such technologies to cut down on the number of workers who overstay their visa terms – estimated to comprise about 40 to 50 percent of the US’s illegal immigrant population. Under the Experiment, travelers entering or exiting the country through Otay Mesa who hold US work visa and are not citizens would need to provide iris and facial scans at designated kiosks. The CBP says the biometric data will be stored in a secure database and will not be shared with any other organization.

While the CBP has been quietly implementing a biometric screening system at one of the country’s major airports, that deployment was designed primarily to ensure security. The Otay Mesa project, meanwhile, revolves around the controversial issue of illegal immigration in the US, particularly from Mexico. Given that the government’s use of biometric technology is increasingly coming under scrutiny from privacy and civil rights advocates, the Otay Mesa deployment has the potential to become a real flashpoint in both of these ongoing national debates.

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

august 31, 2015 – by Alex Perala