U.S. Coast Guard Begins Biometric Collection Program

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is collecting biometric information from illegal migrants who are intercepted while attempting entry into U.S. territory through the body of water between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico known as the Mona Passage.

In the pilot program, the U.S. Coast Guard will compare the digital fingerprints and photographs of illegal migrants against the US-VISIT database. The US-VISIT program is a continuum of biometrically enabled security measures that collect biometric and biographic information from travelers at U.S. visa-issuing posts around the world, and upon their arrival in the United States at air, sea and land border ports of entry.

"The Coast Guard's role in maritime border security is to support the national policy of orderly, safe and legal migration while ensuring safety of life at sea," said Admiral Thad Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard. "Since 9/11, it has become increasingly important to know who is attempting to gain access to the United States, and this project gives us the means to positively identify and take appropriate actions regarding individuals intercepted at sea."

According to Robert Mocny, acting director of the US-VISIT program, biometrics make it virtually impossible to use forged documents or claim a fraudulent identity. "The Coast Guard's comparison of biometrics collected at sea to those collected through the US-VISIT program will greatly enhance our ability to intercept those who pose a threat to national security."

The project is expected to contribute to the broader objective of developing a biometric mobile solution for DHS and is another step in the U.S. government's plan to enhance security and ensure the integrity of the immigration and border management system.

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