Biometrics Help Indentify and Apprehend Illegal Migrants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that in the first year of operation, its biometrics-at-sea program has been a success and accomplished its intended goals. In its first 12 months, the program collected biometric data from 1,368 migrants, prosecuted 90 of those migrants, and helped reduce the flow of illegal migration by nearly 50 percent in the waters between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

“The Coast Guard is charged with securing America’s borders along more than 95,000 miles of coastline,” said Rear Adm. Wayne E. Justice, Director of Response Policy. “This collaborative interagency program is leading to many successful prosecutions and helping to deter illegal migration. For the Coast Guard, biometric technology has been an effective tool for positively identifying migrants and meeting our mission of maritime domain awareness.”

This program, initiated last November, is an information-sharing effort between US-VISIT and the U.S. Coast Guard to address the challenge of identifying illegal migrants who are interdicted at sea. The pilot program provides the Coast Guard with the technical capability to digitally capture fingerprints from illegal migrants apprehended at sea. The Coast Guard then uses satellite technology to immediately compare the migrant information against US-VISIT’s data, which includes information about wanted criminals, immigration violators and those who have previously encountered government authorities.

Until now, the Coast Guard did not have the technology to accurately identify illegal migrants interdicted in the most highly traveled areas, namely around Puerto Rico. The success of the program has significantly advanced the effort to develop effective mobile solutions for biometric collection and analysis, and represents another step in the department’s comprehensive strategy to secure the nation’s borders.

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