Why we say no to a biometric system at the U.S. Canadian border

The debate over President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration has put the possibility of implementing biometric tests at Buffalo Niagara’s international border crossings back in the news.  The President’s Executive Order calls for the expedited completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System.  While the collection of biometric information – fingerprints, facial images, and iris scans – was first discussed post-September 11th as a way to collect more information on foreign travelers, it wasn’t until 2004 that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began collecting this information at select ports of entry.  As recently as September 2016, DHS stated its goal to introduce fingerprint scanning at 20 of the busiest airports by 2018.

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The debate over fully deploying biometric testing highlights the stark differences between our country’s northern and southern border crossings.  Biometric testing at our northern international border crossings would have devastating results.  Biometric testing would cripple the flow of over 350,000 people and $2 billion in trade that cross each day.  In Buffalo Niagara alone, over $30 billion in trade is passed along our local international bridges between New York and Canada each year.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership has consistently advocated for the implementation of efficient border procedures to better move goods and people across Buffalo Niagara’s international border crossings.  This year, we included three priorities in our Advocacy Agenda in order to accomplish the goal to streamline border processes.

In the past, bipartisanship and commonsense have prevailed in suspending the implementation of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System at the northern border.  The Partnership is committed to making sure the same is true this time.  Congressman Chris Collins recently sent a letter to the DHS Secretary outlining his serious concerns with the proposal and Congressman Higgins has also taken a strong stand.  The Partnership will continue to work with the region’s federal elected officials on this critical issue.