Enhancing the Exit Capabilities of U.S. Entry-Exit Systems

U.S. Border Patrol U.S. customs and borders officials screen 100 percent of all incoming travelers, but only a fraction of these travelers are screened upon exit of the country. According to a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, this imbalance in the U.S. exit-entry system poses a threat to national security. The report, “Entry-Exit System: Progress, Challenges, and Outlook,” argues that while national entry capability is “fully deployed,” weak exit systems may allow foreign visitors to overstay their visas or cause DHS to overlook “individuals whose malicious intent [was] not known at the time of entry.” For these reasons, exit capabilities should be enhanced.

According to the report, enhancements to the exit system, including the introduction of biometric and biographic capabilities, would offer four main benefits to immigration enforcement: statistical purposes, denial of admission or visas, more efficient environment, and additional interior enforcement. These benefits would allow DHS to track and locate overstay populations, deny visas to visitors who have overstayed in the past, and avoid wasting law enforcement resources on individuals who have already left or adjusted status.

Based on its review of U.S. entry-exit systems, the Center ultimately offers four main observations:

  • “Biometric identifiers have greater potential for accuracy than biographic, but this benefit has not been proven in real-world settings. Additional testing and piloting will be needed to prove capability.
  • Exit records offer little value for overstays who come into contact with law enforcement […] The key benefits of exit records would be to (1) enable the government to deny future visas or admission on the basis of past overstays and (2) improve the efficiency of enforcement by reducing the number of dead-end overstay investigations for individuals who already left the country. A biographic system could provide the bulk of these benefits.
  • The southern land border presents a significant barrier to completing the exit system. These challenges will be difficult to overcome in the near- or medium-term.
  • If DHS were to implement a biometric exit system before all logistical and technical questions are answered, it would be unlikely to provide the full benefits it is designed to achieve.”

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/enhancing-the-exit-capabilities-of-u-s-entry-exit-systems