Barletta Presses TSA on Biometric Entry-Exit Screening System

Nov 9, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) pushed for implementation of an enhanced biometric entry-exit screening system during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing entitled “Preventing the Next Attack: TSA’s Role in Keeping Our Transportation Systems Secure.”  Newly confirmed TSA Administrator, Ret. Vice Admiral David Pekoske provided testimony to the committee on current TSA issues. 

“For years, I’ve called on Congress and the Obama Administration to complete a biometric screening entry-exit system,” Barletta said. “Tracking the arrival and departure of foreign visitors to the United States is critical a part of our national security and immigration control.  Without this information, it is impossible to know whether foreign visitors have left the country or if they have overstayed their visa.”

As a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Barletta has long called for a stronger biometric entry-exit system to prevent against individuals overstaying their visas.  Cooperation between TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is essential to the system.  Visas overstays account for nearly 50 percent of people who are in the United States illegally.  According to the most recent data released by the administration, in Fiscal Year 2016, more people overstayed their travel visas (739,478 individuals) than were apprehended illegally crossing the border (415,816 individuals).

“Our desire is to have the same biometric that US Customs and Border Protection uses,” Administrator Pekoske said.  “We coordinate with [CBP] extensively. We’ve already tested out some biometric technology in our checkpoints, those tests are under evaluation right now.”

Barletta asked, “How is TSA working to ensure information is properly shared between agencies?”

“We meet with Customs and Border Protection on a regular basis we have a very strong relationship with them, we’re both in the same airports, and I’m confident we’ll find ways to share that information securely,” said Pekoske.  

Barletta has also pointed to the 9/11 Commission Report, which identified biometric entry-exit screening as an essential investment in our national security.  As many as four of the 9/11 hijackers violated the terms of their visas or overstayed, a pattern that has continued in other terrorist plots.

Earlier, this year, Barletta re-introduced the Visa Overstay Enforcement Act, H.R. 643, which makes overstaying a visa a criminal offense rather than a civil offense as federal law currently holds.  Under the bill, a first instance of staying in the United States beyond a visa’s expiration date would be a misdemeanor, while subsequent infractions would be felonies.  The bill for the first time brings penalties for visa overstays into line with existing law for unlawfully crossing the U.S. border.

“I’m pleased we now have a president whose utmost priority is ensuring the safety of the American people,” Barletta said.  “President Trump has clearly laid out a series of border and national security priorities that include the speedy completion of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States.”

To watch the video, click HERE.