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Monday, November 20, 2006

Coast Guard Begins Biometric Use to Deter Illegal Entry by Sea

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun a pilot program that will collect biometric information from illegal migrants interdicted while attempting entry into U.S. territory through the body of water between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico known as the Mona Passage.

The U.S. Coast Guard will compare the digital fingerprints and photographs of illegal migrants against the US‑VISIT database, which includes information about wanted criminals, immigration violators and those who previously encountered government authorities. Those attempting to illegally enter the United States and its territories are prosecuted under U.S. law in conjunction with bilateral agreements in effect.

"The Coast Guard's role in maritime border security is to support the national policy of orderly, safe and legal migration while ensuring safety of life at sea," says Admiral Thad Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard. "Since 9/11, it has become increasingly important to know who is attempting to gain access to the United States, and this project gives us the means to positively identify and take appropriate actions regarding individuals intercepted at sea."

The partnership between the Coast Guard and US-VISIT represents the department’s commitment to detain, apprehend and prosecute illegal migrants and migrant smugglers. The project furthers the broader objective to develop a biometric mobile solution for DHS and is another step in the U.S. government’s plan to enhance security and ensure the integrity of the immigration and border management system.

The US‑VISIT program is a system of biometrically enabled security measures that collect biometric and biographic information from travelers at U.S. visa‑issuing posts around the world, and upon their arrival in the United States at air, sea and land border ports of entry.

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