FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., is introducing legislation to get the U.S. to finally launch a biometric exit system for immigrants on temporary visas in an effort to track and prevent overstays, a significant, but often overlooked form of illegal immigration.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has, over the years, introduced a biometric entry-exit system, which uses facial recognition, fingerprinting and other technology at dozens of airports, seaports and all pedestrian lanes at both the northern and southern borders.
The creation of a biometric entry-exit system was mandated by the 9/11 Commission in August 2004, and an entry system was implemented in 2006.
“Facial biometrics adds an extra layer of security and further enhances the traveler experience by utilizing a more touch-free technology that streamlines entry procedures,” CBP’s website says.
However, the exit system has yet to be comprehensively implemented to track visitors leaving the U.S. A Congressional Research Service report in April found that while the entry systems are complete and operational, the exit systems are not yet fully operating the same way and are instead in varying degrees of completion.
“As of July 2022, the capture rate of biometric data at air exit for in-scope travelers on participating flights is approximately 80%,” the report says. “CBP’s previously stated goal was 97%, but it is no longer pursuing that goal.”
The report noted that reaching 97% would require private-public partnerships as participation by airlines is voluntary, adding some airlines choose to exclude certain categories of people, such as families or those in wheelchairs.
Meanwhile, biometrics of those leaving via sea, such as on cruise lines, are not taken. Biometrics are also not taken for those leaving the U.S. by vehicle at the northern or southern land borders.
The Donalds legislation, the Reform Immigration Through Biometrics Act, would require DHS to submit a report to the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees on an evaluation of the efforts to implement an entry and exit system.
Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas; Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas; Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; and Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La.
The concern about the exit system is related to concerns about visa overstays, in which immigrants arrive with temporary (or nonimmigrant) visas but remain in the country beyond their designated time. In fiscal 2020, there were 684,499 overstays, about 1.48% of expected departures, making it a significant form of illegal immigration, separate from those coming across the southern border.
Donalds noted that the bill comes as the U.S. is dealing not only with visa overstays, but the ongoing crisis at the southern border, where there were more than 2.4 million migrant encounters in fiscal 2024 and ongoing concerns about a potential terrorist threat.
“My bill is simple: It demands action and accountability of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ department and addresses their statutory failure to establish a comprehensive biometric apparatus at our nation’s points of entry,” he said.
Other Republicans have looked to crack down on illegal immigration via overstays. Earlier this year, Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, introduced legislation to require foreign nationals on a temporary visa to put down up to $15,000 in a bond or cash payment that would be returned on their departure.