Homeland Security To Have Immigrant Exit Tracking System Ready Within ‘Weeks’

WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The Department of Homeland Security is finalizing its plan for a biometric data system to track when immigrants leave the United States and will present it to Congress within “weeks,” a top department official told a House Homeland Security subcommittee Tuesday.

An exit system to track who is leaving the country and when has been sought since before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. DHS officials, including Secretary Janet Napolitano, have agreed with the need for such a program but have previously said it would be too costly.

John Cohen, the department’s deputy counter terrorism coordinator, did not discuss the cost in his testimony about the problem of immigrants who overstay visas. He said the department’s report to Congress will explain how DHS plans to better determine who has overstayed their visa.

The criminal case against Amine El Khalifi, 29, of Alexandria, Va., accused in an alleged bomb plot against the U.S. Capitol, has renewed the debate about how the U.S. government — a decade after the terror attacks of 2001 — routinely fails to track millions of foreign visitors who remain in the country longer than they are allowed. El Khalifi was arrested in a parking lot, wearing what he thought was an explosive-laden suicide vest. He had been living illegally in the United States for 12 years.

RELATED: Romney Responds To Gingrich Immigration Shot

The Obama administration doesn’t consider deporting people whose only offense is overstaying a visa a priority. It has focused immigration enforcement efforts on people who have committed serious crimes or are considered a threat to public or national security.

Cohen said improvements in how data from immigrants is collected and stored has made it easier for law enforcement to identify visa overstays and determine if they pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who led Tuesday’s hearing, said El Khalifi “follows a long line of terrorists, including several of the 9/11 hijackers, who overstayed their visa and went on to conduct terror attacks.” His tourist visa expired the same year he arrived from his native Morocco as a teenager in 1999.

She said 36 people who overstayed visas have been convicted of terrorism related charges since 2001.

“We have to recognize that we do have this problem,” Miller said. “The truth is, in the 40 percentile of all the illegal (immigrants) are in this country on expired visas. They came in right through the front door.”

El Khalifi, who is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, never came to the attention of federal law enforcement agencies even after a series of minor run-ins with police in northern Virginia from 2002 to 2006, including disobeying a traffic sign and speeding. Programs that could have identified him if he had been jailed by local authorities, including the Secure Communities program that shares fingerprints from local jails with the FBI, were not in place at the time.

The Moroccan national didn’t face a felony charge — possession of marijuana with intent to distribute — until last September, about nine months after he became the target of the FBI probe related to the alleged plot to destroy the Capitol. He has waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

El Khalifi, unemployed when he was arrested last month, is one of an estimated millions of illegal immigrants who came to the United States with a government-issued visa and never left. He never applied to become a U.S. citizen.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for deporting illegal immigrants, has routinely combed through visa records to try to identify people who have overstayed their welcome and deport those considered threats to the community or national security.

Cohen said Tuesday that more than 37,000 people who overstayed visas were deported from 2009 to 2011

Last year, ICE reviewed a backlog of about 1.6 million suspected overstay cases involving people who had come to the U.S. since 2004. The Homeland Security Department said the review concluded that about half of those people have either left the country or applied to change their immigration status. Of the remaining half, the cases of about 2,700 people were given further review. ICE officials have not said how many of those people were deemed a national security threat or were otherwise considered priority for deportation.

RELATED: Immigration Not Main Issue For Hispanics

For the more than 797,000 others whose cases were not reviewed further, DHS officials said their overstay status was noted in electronic files in case any of them commit crimes in the future or otherwise become a priority to be deported.

Visa overstays have long been a concern of lawmakers and law enforcement. Some estimates suggest that as many as half of the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants have overstayed visas.

But finding illegal immigrants who, like El Khalifi, came to the United States before biometric data was collected and records were computerized around 2004 — and who overstayed visas but haven’t committed a crime — can be difficult, if not impossible.

“It’s very difficult to find those individuals, and those individuals aren’t priorities until they commit a crime,” said Julie Myers Wood, who was head of ICE from 2006 to 2008.

James Ziglar, who was head of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service from 2001 until it was folded into DHS in 2002, said immigration authorities made efforts to locate immigrants thought to be a threat to national security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But simply having overstayed a visa wouldn’t have made illegal immigrants like El Khalifi a priority.

“We were certainly focused on trying to find bad people and connecting the dots with the Department of State and their visa records,” Ziglar said. “I doubt very seriously he (El Khalifi) would have come up on the radar. He might have if you kept drilling down further and further just because of where he was from. But he would not have been, I think, an earlier target, just because there were more suspicious types.”

Please leave your comment and thoughts below.

Follow All-News 99.1 WNEW on Twitter for breaking news and updates: @WNEWNews

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Osamas Pajamas

    How long before these Nazis inflict this technology on American citizens?

    • John

      They’ll track us to make room for Illegals. You, know… They have to otherwise they’re racist.

    • marco polo

      Who do you really think this is for??

    • Libertarian Advocate

      Got a Passport?

    • Ned Stark

      We don’t need a physical wall dividing us like Berlin had. There will be a wall where ideas, free thought, and individuality are kept out at all costs and it’s being built by the government “of, by, and for the people.”

      I almost can’t believe my nation is this stupid. Then I take a peek at the 2008 election results and I’m reminded that yes, yes my nation is this stupid.

      • Zip

        All the stuff going on now days, a little much for sure.


      • ExposingTheCoup

        After the coup and cover up there isn’t anything or anyone that the government isn’t spying on. They don’t want the truth leaking out because they think you can’t handle it. We have no president, no democracy, no freedom of press after unelected officials staged a coup and took over the media. The truth is being buried in Psy-ops comments and disinformation.

        Search PalinsDirtyLittleSecret for the biggest cover up in world history before it’s gone forever, much like me.


      • LTCB

        Ned, I’ll be nice. You’re the problem and you need to leave to the socialist state of your choice as soon as possible. I strongly recommend Communist China. There has NEVER been a fully open door policy in this country. When we started out, it was easier to take in the millions of uneducated workers who did not speak the language. Now, they’re a cost drag. Fact is, if you’re black in the country or one of the many hispanics that came here LEGALLY, you’re probably having trouble finding and keeping work because of the employment pressure by the ILLEGALS. Some anglos have the same problem but, not nearly so much. The demoncratic party has long been the party of slavery. They brought slavery to the nation and forced a Civil war over it. They brought the Jim Crow laws into existance and then kept them in place for nearly 100 years. The Demoncrats were the ones fighting against integration into the military during BOTH world wars. The Demoncratic party is the one that supports the abortion of MOSTLY black and hispanic children (don’t try lying, it is reality). The fact is, the Republican party has always been more about what makes sense economically. It does not make sense to force someone to pay for the bad habits of others. Case in point: the democratic party as a whole believes contraception should be free from the government. OK, so, when do I get my free cigarettes, beer, drugs, nascar, proche or whatever else I think I need/want? Both are poor economic decisions. The nation cannot afford EVERYONE that wants to live here. We have unemployed already. We don’t need more. As for those that come here to work on a permit, do you REALLY think that employer exhausted ALL options in trying to hire a citizen? Fact is, no. The problems we have are self-inflicted and we have to stop cutting ourselves or we’ll die the death of a thousand cuts.

      • Wendy

        I just read that ICE will be offering treatment for I believe it was gender reassignment for illegal immigrants! Can this be true?

      • Socialist Pig

        The Berlin Wall was built to keep people from leaving East Germany, you ignoramus, not from entering it. We need to protect our borders. Ideas can travel through the Internet.

      • track_them_all

        I hope that includes all the MF-ers who invaded over the past, Progressive century – most of whom were or are Marxists – who have colluded to destroy the Constitution and property rights.

      • Obama-Biden 2012: YES WE CAN... AGAIN!

        I just reported your post to http://www.AttackWatch.net
        Clearly, that report was a case “Accidental Journalism” and should NOT taken seriously by the general public.

      • gillie

        they are not “immigrants,” but either resident aliens (with or without green cards) or those with student, work or holiday visas. Otherwise they are ILLEGALS, say the word, “ILLEGALS” if they are here withou a visa or with one that has expired.

      • http://rogueoperator.wordpress.com rogueoperator

        This entire thread has been jacked by disinfo agents at DHS, me thinks.

      • John McIntosh

        I listen to Ned and I have to wonder…

        Is my country really this stupid?

      • Rico

        Maybe they can start with Obama’s illegal welfare fraud aunt and Uncle. You know, the one’s here illegally soaking the taxpayers.

    • wzw

      This is just beta-testing of our own slave-training devices.
      If Obama is not defeated we will all be slaves. With guns.

    • jerry duck

      The technology is scheduled for use on YOU. This is only the begining.

    • bikertrash

      So when do they start tracking Auntie Zeituni,Uncle Onyango,and the nephew,what’s his name-Barry ?

    • Joe Bite-me

      Track the legal immigrants, while allowing the ill egals to come on in like rats with no tracking. Typical leftist insane logic.

    • Tshep

      How do you know they aren’t already doing it?

    • Rico

      Maybe they can start with Obama’s illegal welfare fraud aunt and Uncle.

  • Bill in Tennessee

    Whaaattt??!!! You’re KIDDING, right? After decades and decades of abuse, voter fraud, welfare scams, and God knows WHO has crawled across our border, only NOW (in an election year, we must note) is Big Sis getting “serious DAMNIT!” about tracking immigrants? Not many news articles make me LOL, but this one did. God save us all, and God save America in particular…we are being “led” by morons.

    • Joe Bite-me

      The tracking is for LEGAL immigrants, NOT illegals. Make more sense now?

      • QuackAttack

        Yup it makes sense because illegalz are more likely to vote democrat so that’s why they want so many of them to come and vote.

    • Melvin Earl Swanson Sr.

      She just wanting some extra money to line her pockets, after all, she’s one of the FreeMasons and has to have her free money too

  • Lakewood Ed

    Well, if you deport everyone who overstays their visa, you’ll also be deporting the felons you’ve been focusing on.

    • LTCB

      Why do we have to WAIT for them to commit a serious crime before we eject them forcefully from the border? Why wait. Start with a cleanup with the current administration. How many of them are actually illegals?

    • Ben Dover

      Would that mean Obama would have to return to his home country?

  • John Q Public.

    Let’s start by deporting oblamer back to his birthplace…Kenya.


      @ TRUTH TEAM 2012 MEMBER
      It is obvious that your intentional mocking of Obama is lost on the idiots posters above, judging from their comments. The “TRUTH TEAMS” were established by the Kenyan’s campaign a few months ago, but nobody can take 5 seconds to READ what is on AttackWatch.net

  • HeyHey


  • NowYouKnow

    Hey, when did cost become a concern for the Federal Government? This should be easy — ZERO illegals leave. How about this backhanded confession that they don’t have a clue about who is coming and going.

  • ImagePhreak

    This is the roll out or trial balloon of biometric scanning for all of us. Wake up America!

  • Gumby

    And how does Napolitano intend to get biometric data on people sneaking across the Arizona desert at night?

  • Dave

    Waaaay too little, and far too late! The democrats rely too heavily on votes from illegal immigrants to actually do anything meaningful about stemming the tide. Besides, this is from the former Democratic governor of Arizona who vetoed every piece of legislation that proposed to reduce illegal immigration, so, I’m not holding my breath.

  • tomlaredo

    Longer lines at US borders for sure, but is needed to stop illegals from overstaying visas

  • Luke

    …1776 needs to awaken in this country… and has to happen… now….
    …….this is getting out of control..

  • Mr. Positve

    It’s getting increasingly difficult to enter the US. The last time I visited they took my picture and fingerprints.I’m not going to bother doing business in the US not worth the hassle. Please don’t play the race card when replying to me – I’m a 6′ white guy. –

    • erv

      I am a citizen. Once when I left this coutnry I had a problems getting back in.

  • Thomas Jefferson

    Just another Obama campaign stunt! If they TRULY cared, this would had been implemented a LONG time ago!!

  • far left liberal nut job

    unbelievable, how about starting a program to track people that are HERE , not after they left, illegally. Start with obama

    he of the forged certificate , as stated by a sheriff from arizona last week

  • karl anglin

    Why was not this done soon after 9/11/2001?

  • quagga53

    It’s a start, but isn’t it a little more critical to know who’s coming _into_ our great country? Think southern border.

  • Ken

    Obama cares about illegal immigration? Must be an election year.

  • Bloodless Coup

    Obama’s aunt and uncle have been here forever illegally. Why don’t they get started with them?

    • Gary R

      Good point! But then he would’t have any blood relatives to visit in this country.

  • joey zasa

    first the immigrants, then the citizens

  • stuck

    I don’t believe any of that. The government is ALL FOR illegals–they are here to destroy the economy. Illinois is a nanny state, so illegals don’t have to worry about anything. All are welcome.

  • Chief568

    AH…I SEE.

    So NOW…right BEFORE the Election in November…ONLY NOW do the Feds think it’s time to track ILLEGAL ALIENS?!

    And they want me to VOTE them BACK into office?!

    Can we visualize a blizzard in HADES?!

  • edwardo

    It is a matter of time when they are tracking and profiling white, male tax payers! they got Breitbart, your next.

  • bob

    give every one of the 25 million illegals in this country a defective hair dryer and Janet Incompetano will then deport them.

  • maxtor

    this was supposed to have being done anyway….you mean they are just not getting around to finding out they are supposed to do that??? hell, i knew that and i am just an old retired soldier. immigrations are supposed to track anyone that enters this country with a visa!!

  • sylvie

    LOL, This is soooo full of BS! We here in America know the score. They are more concerned on who may be getting out of the country who are US Citizens! They don’t like their cattle straying too far… lol…. and remember all of you US citizens that are lucky enough to get the h*ll outta here, King Obama has now declared that US citizens are NOT safe even overseas! How ugly America gets when reality hits the fan, its going bankrupt and all the FED has now are birth certificate stocks for collateral… ummm… that is you and me!

blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow and Like Us
Best Of CBS Washington

Listen Live