On the 9th Day of Amnesty, DHS failed to adopt…

the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

12 Days of Amnesty: Day 9

Finding that a biometric entry-exit system could have helped authorities in their search for two 9/11 hijackers in the U.S. on expired visas prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “complete, as quickly as possible, a biometric entry-exit screening system.” Today, over a decade after the attacks, the 9/11 Commission recommendations have still not been adopted.

The law currently requires a biometric entry-exit system tracking foreign visitors to the U.S. by scanning biometric identifiers on their visas or other traveling documentation when they enter and leave any air, sea, and land ports of entry. In fact, the mandate for an entry-exit system has been on the statute books since 1996 (See the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA).) After the 9/11 attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act required the government to implement a biometric entry-exit system “as expeditiously as possible.”

Despite calls for a finished biometric entry-exit system to be “expeditious” and “quick,” DHS has still not fully implemented the system, now twelve years after 9/11. DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman acknowledged this failure in testimony before Congress in November of 2013, saying: “we have yet to implement biometrics into the exit process.”

What’s worse is that several congressional bills considered in 2013 only propose to roll back current law, and would give DHS more leeway to skirt the biometric entry-exit mandate.

  • The supposedly “comprehensive” immigration reform bill in the Senate (S. 744) substitutes secure biometric identification for a biographic system at air and sea ports of entry, but does not require it at land ports at all.
  • The House bill called the Biometric Exit Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 3141) does not really “improve” biometric exit, because it only requires biometric exit at pedestrian land ports of entry within three years, excluding non-pedestrian land traffic. Furthermore, the bill delays the requirement for two years for the 10 busiest U.S. international airports and seaports, and does not require full implementation at all air and sea ports until five years later.
  • Then, there’s the Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417) which does not appear to achieve any actual “results,” because this bill merely requires the DHS to put in place a plan to immediately implement the system—not actually immediately implement the system.

In The Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, several 9/11 Commissioners wrote, “As important as it is to know when foreign nationals arrive, it is also important to know when they leave. Full deployment of the biometric exit component… should be a high priority.” If only Congress considered pushing DHS to adopt the 9/11 recommendations as high a priority as granting amnesty to illegal aliens, perhaps the legislative body’s approval rating wouldn’t be in the single digits: 9%.