DHS fields fingerprint system along borders

DHS fields fingerprint system along borders

The Homeland Security Department's Customs and Border Protection Agency has deployed fingerprint readers linked to immigration and criminal databases at all 136 Border Patrol stations across the country as well as at 100 ports of entry.

CBP officials plan to deploy the technology at dozens of additional ports by the end of 2005.

Border Patrol officers use the units to link to the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and DHS' Automated Identification System known as IDENT.

By sending fingerprint scans to the two databases, Border Patrol agents arrested 138 homicide suspects, 67 kidnapping suspects, 226 sexual assault suspects, 431 robbery suspects, 2,342 suspects for other types of assaults and 4,801 drug offenders between October 2003 and the end of August.

'Implementing IAFIS was supposed to have been done [by the Immigration and Naturalization Service] years ago,' CBP commissioner Robert C. Bonner said today. 'Last April I promised secretary [of Homeland Security Tom] Ridge that we would have it deployed at all border stations by the end of the year. It was deployed to the border stations by the end of September.'

CBP spent about $2.2 million fielding the systems costing about $6,000 each to the Border Patrol stations.

CBP has deployed 402 fingerprint scanners to the stations, according to assistant chief Kelly Good. More than 300 of them are Identix Touchprint TP-3000 units from Identix Inc. of Minnetonka, Minn. The rest are Crossmatch 500 units from Crossmatch Technologies Inc. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., that the patrol deployed in the early phases of the program.

Good said the patrol is considering adopting wireless technology so officers in Border Patrol vehicles could capture fingerprints in the field.

He added that about 13 percent of aliens the Border Patrol apprehends have records in IAFIS or IDENT. The patrol catches about 90,000 illegal border crossers monthly'though the figures vary seasonally'and is generating about 10,000 IDENT and IAFIS hits each month.

Integrating the two databases proved to be a challenge because IAFIS uses all 10 fingerprints, while IDENT scans only two fingers. CBP officials said the new system splits off two prints for IDENT and sends all ten to be checked via IAFIS.

'It's a system [built] so we can run the fingerprints against both databases,' Bonner said.

Bonner also said that although some states do not submit the prints of felons they arrest to the FBI's Criminal Justice Information System for entry into IAFIS, 'most state law enforcement agencies do submit these fingerprints. By and large it is pretty complete.'

IDENT and IAFIS use different algorithms to match fingerprints captured in the field against those stored in the databases. Some critics, including the Justice Department's Inspector General, have charged that it will take years to fully integrate the systems [see GCN coverage here ].

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