Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today sent a letter to United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly asking for details about the new administration’s plan to collect information on individuals entering and exiting the country.

In the letter, Fischer asks three specific questions regarding the administration’s efforts to keep our country safe by establishing a comprehensive biometric entry-exit system. 

Fischer writes: “Understanding who is coming into the United States and whether a foreign national is leaving the country prior to the expiration of their lawful presence is vital to protecting our national security. I believe every effort must be made to implement a comprehensive entry-exit system as soon as possible. I look forward to working with you on these and other issues affecting our homeland security going forward.”

In 2013, Senator Fischer introduced an amendment to the immigration reform bill that would implement a biometric entry-exit system at all U.S. air, land, and sea ports of entry. Through this amendment, the federal government could identify people who enter the country unlawfully or overstay their visas. 

The full text of the letter is below.

January 25, 2017

The Honorable John F. Kelly

United States Secretary of Homeland Security

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Congratulations on your confirmation. I look forward to working with you to address the threats, foreign and domestic, that face the United States.

Since 1996, Congress has sought to establish a system to record the entry and exit of foreign nationals to better identify those persons who overstay their lawful presence in the United States or pose potential threats to Americans. Though U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currently collects biographic information on persons entering the country, and while progress has been made as technology has improved, a comprehensive entry-exit system that includes both biographic and biometric data has yet to be implemented. Since the original legislation requiring a comprehensive entry-exit system in 1996, deadlines have been missed again and again, and Congress has had to grant numerous extensions. 

The Fiscal Year 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act authorized CBP to collect up to $1 billion in fee surcharges to establish a biometric system. Additionally, on April 20, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a “Comprehensive Biometric Entry/Exit Plan” outlining the agency’s efforts to establish such a system. The plan identified three areas in which DHS would use funds authorized by Congress: upgrading CBP’s infrastructure, establishing operation support, and implementing biometric entry-exit solutions. 

As the new administration begins to take on immigration challenges, I write to gain a stronger understanding of the efforts DHS will take going forward to implement a comprehensive entry-exit system that includes both biographic and biometric data. Specifically, I request your response to the following questions:

  1. Does DHS intend to use the plan established by the former administration to implement a comprehensive entry-exit system, or will the new administration develop another strategy? 
  1. Can you provide a timeline for when DHS will implement a comprehensive biometric entry-exit system? 
  1. Are there steps Congress can take to expedite this process? 

Understanding who is coming into the United States and whether a foreign national is leaving the country prior to the expiration of their lawful presence is vital to protecting our national security. I believe every effort must be made to implement a comprehensive entry-exit system as soon as possible. I look forward to working with you on this and other issues affecting our homeland security going forward.

Sincerely,

Senator Deb Fischer

United States Senator

 

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