The United States remains vulnerable to infiltration by criminals and terrorists because of chronic delays in making millions of FBI fingerprints available to the Border Patrol, Justice Department investigators report.
It probably will take at least four more years for the FBI and Border Patrol systems to be combined in a way that would allow for a quick, automated check of fingerprints for the 1 million illegal immigrants who are caught each year, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine determined.
That means thousands who could be prosecuted for crimes or detained as security risks will be returned to their home countries, free to try to reenter the United States, the Associated Press reports.
The report is only the latest to find fault with U.S. efforts to secure airports, seaports and border crossings in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The FBI’s fingerprint database contains about 43 million 10-finger sets of known criminals’ prints. Border Patrol agents can check detained people against the FBI’s database, but the process is slow. The Border Patrol’s separate fingerprint system contains about 6 million two-finger sets of prints and an unspecified number of 10-finger sets of deported and criminal aliens.