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September 23, 2013

Visa Overstays Targeted in Bipartisan Biometric Exit Bill

(WASHINGTON) – Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), senior member on the House Committee on Homeland Security and former chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, and current chairwoman Representative Candice Miller (R-MI) today announced introduction of H.R. 3141, the Biometric Exit Improvement Act of 2013. A July U.S. Government Accountability Office report stated that there are currently more than one million unmatched arrival records, indicating that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not know whether or not these foreign visitors ever left the country. This bill mandates the creation and implementation of a biometric exit system to track if and when a foreign visitor exits the country.

"We've known for a long time that visa overstays make up a large portion of illegal immigration – up to 40 percent – but the DHS has yet to implement a working biometric exit system," said Congresswoman Sanchez. "It is impossible to secure our borders and keep our country safe if we're only addressing half of the problem. Our bill's concrete requirements will finally get a comprehensive biometric exit program off the ground."

A biometric entry system was established after the 9/11 attacks to capture biometric information on foreign visitors, but no such biometric exit system has been developed.

"Twelve years ago this month, 19 terrorists successfully penetrated our border and visa security defenses, hijacked four planes and conducted a heinous attack that took the lives of nearly 3,000 innocent Americans. It became abundantly clear that our visa security system was failing us," said Congresswoman Miller. "The Biometric Exit Improvement Act of 2013 would allow DHS to understand in real-time when a foreign national has left the country, and allow the Department to focus its limited resources on visa overstays, and potential national security risks, who remain in the United States. This legislation puts the country on the path to finally fulfilling a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, and in the process, strengthening border security."

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, added, "This bill requires DHS to complete a critical – and long overdue – border security recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. Staying on top of the entries and exits of non-citizens is an essential part of national security. The Biometric Exit Improvement Act will put DHS on a reasonable path toward finally completing the US-VISIT entry-exit system that Congress mandated by Congress. I commend Border Security Chairman Candice Miller and her predecessor in that role, Representative Loretta Sanchez, for introducing this thoughtful legislation and their continued leadership on this important issue. I look forward to the bill being moved through the Committee and to the full House as quickly as possible."

H.R. 3141, The Biometric Exit Improvement Act of 2013 Key Provisions:

Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit within 180 days a plan to establish a biometric exit data system at ports of entry.

Requires the Secretary to establish a biometric exit data system, not later than two years after enactment, at the ten U.S. airports and ten U.S. seaports with the highest volume of international travelers.

The Secretary would be required to establish a six month pilot program to test a biometric exit system on non-pedestrian outbound traffic at not fewer than three land ports of entry with significant cross-border traffic, including not fewer than two southwest border ports of entry, and at least one northern border port of entry.

This measure would further expand the biometric exit system to all pedestrians at land ports of entry not later than three years after enactment and would exp

Joining Sanchez and Miller in introducing the Biometric Exit Improvement Act of 2013 are Representatives Michael McCaul (TX-10), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, and Peter T. King (NY-02), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

Legislative Information

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Media Contact: (Thompson) Adam Comis at 202-225-9978
(Sanchez) Barb Solish at 202-226-8373