Nelson Balido, former Border Trade Alliance President and Homeland Security Advisory Council, advocates for a U.S. exit & entry information system along its northern and southern border crossings. Why? Currently, the United States focuses on obtaining entry information, and collecting exit information, in Balido’s view, represents a cost-effective, minimally trade disruptive border security strategy.
Balido model for building a successful entry/exit system? The Canada-U.S. Entry/Exit Information System Pilot Program:
There are some signs, however, that policymakers are making progress on the exit control conundrum. The U.S. and Canada, as part of their Beyond the Border agreement, later this month will begin the second phase of their joint Entry/Exit Information System pilot program.
Under the information sharing program, an arrival by land in one country will constitute an exit from the other country. The first phase, which only reconciled the crossings of travelers who were neither U.S. nor Canadian citizens, was deemed a big success by both countries.
The Canadian experiment shows that with creative thinking we can craft an immigration system on the Mexican border that strengthens our border controls without negatively affecting our nation’s economic health, and for that we needs Mexico’s help. That means installing a process of coming and going through our international ports without stemming the tide of legal visitors who inject billions into our economy every year and who are critical to the economic wellbeing of so many Americans. According to the U.S. Travel Association, we actually have a tourism trade surplus, a rare bright spot in an otherwise muddy financial outlook.
The stakes are high in the exit control challenge, and no question it has to be implemented. The American people and the politicians they elect are demanding to know who we’ve let into the country and whether they’ve left. But for border communities who have already seen their economies suffer due to a broken entry system, failure could prove catastrophic.
The Entry/Exit Information System is a key action of the Beyond the Border Action (BTB) Plan. As with other joint initiatives that have emerged from Canada and the United State’s BTB Initiative, the Entry/Exit Information has made clear progress: just check out this May 2013 report on the results of the Pilot’s phase I performance.
The New York Times also reported on the the success of the Entry/Exit Information System Pilot program’s first phase:
The pilot project with Canada, conducted from September to January, involved about a third of the traffic across the northern American border, tracking the departure of 413,222 foreigners from the United States. Starting this year, according to Congressional officials who have been briefed on the plan, the information collected at the Canadian border will be used to prevent certain foreigners who have stayed too long in the United States from returning again by revoking tourist visas or taking other steps.
The effort relies on an ingenious solution: as foreigners leave the United States to enter Canada — and their passports are checked by the border authorities there — the information is sent back to the United States and recorded as the official “exit” record. By the end of next month, the project is scheduled to be expanded to almost all land border traffic between Canada and the United States.
“The pilot was a success,” said David Heyman, assistant secretary for policy at the Homeland Security Department, in a statement. “We have the ability now to identify, with a high degree of certainty, on a real-time basis, those who overstay the terms of their legal entry into the United States.”
Airlines and cruise ships, relying on passenger manifests, are already mandated under law to turn over data on travelers as they leave the United States. That system has recently been improved so that entries and exits can more definitively be matched, federal officials said, although there remains a large backlog of unconfirmed exits.
The biggest weakness remains the southern border, which has the highest volume of traffic of land crossings, but still has almost no exit controls.
Not only is BTB showing Canada and the United States successfully working together to secure their border, the impressive work they’ve accomplished is impacting the Mexico-U.S. border policy discussion, laying out a blue-print on how all three nations to enhance their security and economic partnership.