DHS upgrades databases

Immigration, travel systems to get boost

The Homeland Security Department has unveiled several important
upgrades to databases that collectively contain tens of millions of personal im-
migration and travel records.

Some of the changes are intended to foster information sharing among organizations inside DHS and with outside government agencies. Others aim to reorganize the databases for easier internal use.

The database changes came to light via a Federal Register notice in which DHS announced the online availability of 14 Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) notices concerning new projects, some of them involving information technology.

One significant upgrade was Citizenship and Immigration Services' (CIS) announcement of a new Person Centric Query service. PCQ is designed to provide access to a consolidated view of all the information about an individual in selected CIS and State Department databases.

A second PIA notice covered CIS' massive Central Index System, which holds data on about 57 million applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits.

Eligible to work?

CIS announced pending upgrades to its politically sensitive Verification Information System (VIS), which plays a crucial role in assuring that job seekers are eligible to work in this country.

VIS acts as a composite source of information from DHS databases. It funnels information to two other CIS databases, the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program and the Employment Eligibility Verification/Basic Pilot Program that companies use to screen new employees. SAVE assures that persons who apply for federal benefits, such as student loans, are legal residents.

The department's privacy reports also provided details about the 'Biometrics at Sea' Mona Passage Proof of Concept Update, a project to improve the Coast Guard's transmission of fingerprint data from individuals, including would-be illegal entrants, intercepted in transit across the Mona Passage sea lane between Haiti and Puerto Rico.

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