House directs INS to implement a port data collection system by 2005

House directs INS to implement a port data collection system by 2005

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The House and Senate last month passed by voice vote an amendment requiring the Justice Department to establish an entry-and-exit data collection system at airports, seaports and other high-traffic ports of entry by Dec. 31, 2005.

Immigration and Naturalization Service officials said the agency is reviewing the legislation to decide whether existing INS systems can meet the mandates.

The INS Data Management Improvement Act of 2000, HR 4489, will amend Section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996.

'This bill will integrate all Immigration and Naturalization Service and State Department databases that support the entry and exit of aliens at airports, seaports and land border ports of entry,' said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who sponsored the amendment.

'The database systems the INS currently use are often independent from each other,' he said. 'As a result, INS officers and inspectors, and State Department consular officers are unable to learn an alien's prior U.S. travel activities from the INS and State Department consular offices.'

The Justice Department has plans under way to integrate two bureau-level automated fingerprint systems to improve data management of illegal alien entries. The department plans to complete an interface between the INS' IDENT and the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System by 2006 [GCN, May 8, Page 1].

Section 110 originally called for an automated entry-exit control system no later than two years after the date of enactment of the reform act. Subsequently, Congress amended Section 110, extending the deadline for the system at land border ports of entry and seaports to March 30.

With that date less than a year away and the INS no closer to a control system at land border ports of entry, Congress has extended the deadline once again.

By Dec. 31, 2003, Justice must implement the integrated entry-and-exit data system using available alien arrival and departure data at airports or seaports, the amendment mandates.

No more than a year later, Justice must implement the integrated system at the 50 U.S. land border ports of entry determined by the attorney general to serve the highest numbers of arriving and departing aliens.

By the end of 2005, the amendment directs the department to fully implement the integrated entry and exit data system.

'Such implementation shall include ensuring that all such data are available to immigration officers at all United States ports of entry,' according to the act.

The act also requires the attorney general to prepare an annual report of arrival and departure statistics for the House and Senate judiciary committees using the system.

'HR 4489 does not create a new, cumbersome inspection system. It does not mandate additional documents be required for entry into the United States,' said Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.). 'HR 4489 simply requires the INS to develop and maintain an electronic database of information already collected at our borders.'

The act also establishes a joint public- and private-sector task force to evaluate and report on ways to further the development of the integrated entry and exit data system.

The bill is a compromise between Smith and Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), who sponsored a similar measure, S 2599. It was considered on the House floor under a suspension of rules.

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