Travelers visiting the US may have to prepare for more hassles at customs: All foreign nationals leaving the country at 30 airports must have their fingerprints taken, according to a new amendment to a planned immigration reform bill.
The amendment, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary
Committee in a 13-5 vote, will see departure terminals at major US
airports — including JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty — equipped
with high-tech systems for fingerprinting foreign nationals and
scanning their passports and visas.
Introducing the new law will take time, as 10 of the biggest US
airports — accounting for 70 percent of international travel — will
have the immigration tracking system installed within two years;
the 20 other airports will have six years to refurbish their
Currently, foreigners are only required to submit their
fingerprints when entering the United States.
Not tracking exits is “a hole in the system,” said Senator
Orrin Hatch (R-UT), one of the amendment’s proponents.
“Biometric data provides the government with certainty that
travelers (and not just their travel documents) have or have not
left the country,” the Senator’s office said in a statement,
according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The new departure procedure is being introduced in order to prevent
foreigners from overstaying their visas. Overstays have become a
pressing issue in the US — 40 percent of an estimated 11 million
undocumented immigrants arrived through now-expired visas.
Advocates for the provision cite the recent high-profile case of
Azamat Tazhayakov. A Kazakhstani, Tazhayakov was a friend of
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a Boston Marathon bombing suspect, and was
charged with obstruction of justice after he allegedly attempted to
dispose of possessions belonging to Tsarnaev. Tazhayakov reportedly
entered the United States in January on an invalid visa.
However, human rights activists have voiced concerns about
“the effect it will have on peoples’ privacy rights as well as
concerns about selective enforcement ,” Jacqueline Esposito of
the New York Immigration Coalition said in an interview with news
“We don’t want to see a situation where only people from
particular countries may be fingerprinted or other racial profiling
taking place ,” Esposito added.
An earlier proposal by House Republicans suggested that all of
the country’s air, sea and land ports should use biometric tracking
for foreigners leaving the country. Apart from fingerprinting, the
proposed tracking would have included facial recognition and iris
scans. The plan, with an estimated cost of $25 billion, was
eventually rejected as too expensive.
The immigration reform bill was approved on Tuesday by the
Senate Judiciary Committee, much to the satisfaction of President
Obama, who had declared the bill a second-term priority. Apart from
tightening border controls, it also contains a new program for
low-skilled foreign labor, and makes it easier for US firms to hire
programmers and engineers from abroad, raising the annual limit of
visas for these professions from 65,000 to 180,000. The full Senate
will vote on the sweeping legislation next month.
This article originally appeared on : RT