Davis questions border cards

Rep. Davis' letter to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge

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Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) has concerns about Homeland Security Department officials' plans to use border-crossing cards for some Mexican citizens in place of the visitor tracking system.

In a letter sent to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Davis said he supported the use of border-crossing cards rather than enrolling in the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program as a temporary solution to potential crowds at the land border. However, Davis questioned how the technology would be used and if officials have sufficient equipment for the cards.

"I am concerned about how the current border-crossing card will be used to access the various databases, and I am also concerned that there may not be sufficient card readers to accommodate your goals," Davis wrote the letter.

The letter follows DHS officials' testimony to the committee at a March 4 hearing. Davis submitted a dozen questions for Ridge to answer, some echoing concerns Davis expressed previously.

Since the cards were issued a few years ago, they have not always been scanned and authenticated as first planned, Davis said. On March 11, DHS officials said card readers would be deployed to the 50 largest land ports of entry by June to meet the end-of-the-year deadline to implement US-VISIT at these ports of entry. Although Davis was pleased with this news, he said he wanted to make sure the readers are integrated into the existing database collection systems to ensure they are effective.

"Used correctly, the [border-crossing card] and reader can be a useful temporary tool at the southern border," Davis wrote. "However, the [Bush] administration must properly use this technology in order to create an acceptable substitution for the US-VISIT program."

A few of the other questions Davis sent to Ridge for follow-up were:

* How is DHS getting the word out about US-VISIT?

* What is the status of discussions about expanding US-VISIT to include travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries?

* Do officials expect to make an award for a prime integrator on time, which is scheduled for May?

* Do officials plan to provide information to Congress about actual processing time at air- and seaports?

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