U.S., partners shore up borders

U.S. immigration officials are working closely with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts to ensure the efficiency and interoperability of border and immigration systems.

With Canada and Mexico seeing the most traveler and cargo traffic with the United States, officials have developed action plans to make sure each country's systems and initiatives are compatible.

Border security is "probably the single most important policy issue facing Canada in the next five years, and probably facing you," said Bill Sheppit, a representative from the Canadian Embassy. He was speaking June 10 on a panel on border security at the E-Gov 2003 conference in Washington, D.C.

Canada and the United States entered into a smart border agreement about a year and a half ago, Sheppit said, with 30 action items to secure the borders and facilitate travel and trade. Of those items, six are information technology-specific and 11 require IT support, he said.

Officials on both sides now face the task of ensuring the systems are interoperable, a task complicated by differing standards in the two countries. Officials are also developing a compatible immigration database to share information, but they face privacy issues.

At the southern border, Mexican and U.S. officials are working from a 24-point action plan, which includes harmonizing port of entry operations, implementing the advanced passenger information system, securing in-transit shipments and facilitating the electronic exchange of information.

U.S. officials have been using systems at the northern and southern borders for several years, which will provide the framework for the comprehensive entry/exit system. The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology (VISIT), formerly the Entry/Exit System, is set to roll out at air and sea ports by the end of this year and will eventually merge several existing border systems.

For example, the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection system was implemented at ports of entry on the Mexican border in the mid-1990s and involves a pre-enrollment process for frequent travelers. Travelers are given a transponder for their vehicle, much like the EZPass used at toll booths, allowing them to speed through the checkpoint, said Bob Mocny, deputy director of U.S. VISIT, also speaking on the E-Gov panel.

Along the border with Canada, immigration officials have been using a similar program, which uses a proximity card for each traveler, Mocny said. These projects, coupled with pilot programs in biometrics and fingerprinting, pave the way for U.S. VISIT.

Featured

  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.