WASHINGTON –  The U.S. Coast Guard and US-VISIT last week announced the expansion of their successful biometrics-at-sea program to the south Florida Straits.

“The Coast Guard is charged with securing the more than 95,000 miles of America’s coastline,” said Rear Adm. Wayne E. Justice, director of response policy. “Broadening the scope of the program represents DHS’s commitment to use every tool we have to deter, detect, apprehend, and prosecute illegal migrants, migrant smugglers and smuggling organizations.”

Since the program began in November 2006, it has collected biometric data from 1,526 migrants, prosecuted 118 of those migrants.  Migrant interdictions in the Mona Pass were down 50% between FY 2006 and FY 2007.

“As we expand use of this valuable tool, we are helping to close the door on those risking their lives and the lives of others to enter our country illegally,” said US-VISIT Director Robert Mocny. “Because biometrics are so reliable, we are able to prosecute more illegal migrants and migrant smugglers to help deter others from attempting such dangerous voyages.”

This information‑sharing effort between US‑VISIT and the Coast Guard uses mobile biometric technology –fingerprints and photographs– to identify illegal migrants who are apprehended while attempting to enter the United States through the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and now, the Florida Straits.

Under the program, the Coast Guard digitally collects fingerprints and photographs from illegal migrants apprehended at sea, and then uses satellite technology to immediately compare the migrants’ information against US‑VISIT databases, which includes information about wanted criminals, immigration violators and those who have previously encountered government authorities.

The success of the program has significantly advanced the effort to develop effective mobile solutions for biometric collection and analysis, and represents another step in the department’s comprehensive strategy to secure the nation’s borders.

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