Fingerprinting Foreigners: Useful Tool Or Waste?


Some shortcomings of the new federal program to fingerprint foreign visitors were noted in a Washington Post editorial. For one, only those arriving at 115 international airports and 14 seaports are being checked. Those arriving legally by land will be fingerprinted only when more of the Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology is working later this year. The Post points out that the program will not be implemented for several more years. It could prove to be successful or “simply create more aggravation for those who have legitimate reasons to visit the United States,” says the Post.

In a pilot program in Atlanta, some fraudulent visas were found and no one objected to the procedure, involving digital photography, not an ink pad.

Still, a Brazilian judge ordered Brazil’s government to fingerprint U.S. visitors, calling the American procedure “as bad as the worst horrors sponsored by the Nazis.” Other countries will do it, too, slowing customs lines globally.

The Post says that plans for exit systems to match the entry systems have been undermined by a lack of funding and a lack of airport space.

In the end, says the newspaper, the program’s impact will be determined “not by the technology alone but also by the political will of those carrying it out. If [information] is not effectively channeled back to law enforcement, then the whole system will lead to nothing but hassle, ill will and wasted money.”


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