Airlines to be forced to fingerprint departing visitors

If you’re planning a visit to the U.S., you already have to give up your fingerprints and retinal scans to the Department of Homeland Security in order to enter the country. Now the department wants to require every visitor to go through the same procedure in order to leave the country.

And they want to force the airlines to collect your biometric information, rather than do it themselves.

“They are apoplectic” about the proposal, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said.

DHS has been testing self-service exit kiosks where international travelers could fingerprint themselves and officially check out as they left the country, but found that almost no departing travelers actually used the kiosks when departing.

Most foreign visitors already have to give up their fingerprints to obtain a visa or upon entry to the U.S. under the US-VISIT program. DHS officials said that an effective exit tracking system would allow them to determine who might be overstaying their visas.

“We are hopeful that they will provide us with enough information so that we can start considering a response,” [said Bob Davidson, the manager of facilitation services for the International Air Transport Association]. “At present, the industry does not have a clear enough picture to enable us to begin thinking through the ramifications.”

Angelo Amador, the director of Immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told UPI that industry concerns centered on the issues of infrastructure — the cost and practicalities of installing fingerprint readers connected to U.S.-VISIT databases at thousands of check-in desks — and contingency plans in case of equipment failure.

“What will happen if there are technological problems?” he asked. “Will they prevent people from boarding? Make them miss their flights?” — United Press International

Don’t forget cost. If you force the airlines to do government work and don’t pay them, then ticket prices will rise. Tourism and international business travel to the U.S. are already significantly down, primarily because of potential visitors’ concerns about clearing Customs. Higher ticket prices and more complicated exit procedures will cut international travel even more.

For most of human history, international travel was not much of a big deal. In the past few decades, the rise of computers and networks has enabled governments to track people more closely, and being governments, they have done exactly that. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends largely on whether you have access to the government databases. But the U.S. has already used this capability to deny entry to people for political reasons entirely unconnected to any potential threat of terrorism.

Maybe it makes us safer, but at what cost? The society which would result from this endless drive to make us safe from all potential threats, no matter how remote, resembles nothing more than a police state where every behavior is strictly regulated. Sure, we’d all be perfectly safe and wouldn’t have to deal with the government if we never left our rubber rooms. But that’s not a society worth living in. It’s certainly not a society worth working toward.

One thought on “Airlines to be forced to fingerprint departing visitors

  • June 15, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    The word travel means travail–.in otherwords what was once an enjoyable experience has returned to its root definition of work–.isn’t that what people are trying to escape. I have travelled to over 60 countries throughout the world, in my thirties, and don’t plan to travel again by airliner if it can be helped. As for the view of Americans, I cannot help but agree with the posts stating it gives one more reason for others to dislike us. Travel is a means by which people can learn about other cultures and people yet the barriers put in place and being put into place will just ostracize the American public even more.

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