U.S. Border Control Multi-Agency Effort, Additional Resources Added to Stem Illegal Immigration

(Tucson, AZ) (USDHS) – In a first -of- its- kind effort to achieve an even safer and more secure Southwest border, Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson today unveiled the “Arizona Border Control (ABC) Initiative.” The kick-off event attended by Congressman Jim Kolbe, U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton and dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement officials, as well as a delegation from the Government of Mexico was held at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Air and Marine Operations Hangar in Tucson, Ariz.

This landmark program supports the priority mission of Homeland Security agencies to detect and deter terrorist activities and cross-border illegal trafficking of people and drugs. Additionally, the ABC Initiative involving hundreds of local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement officers in Arizona will utilize a cooperative approach enhanced with additional personnel, technology and aviation assets.

“The ABC Initiative exemplifies Homeland Security‘s goal to present one face at the border as we implement joint border operations with Border Patrol agents and employees from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), ICE, Transportation Security Administration (TSA,) as well as the resources of the Department of the Interior, the Tohono O’Odham Nation, the United States’ Attorney Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety and dozens of local law enforcement agencies,” said Under Secretary Hutchinson. “By leveraging these resources, we are better able to multiply the positive effects of this initiative and can use the cutting-edge of technology to ensure that Arizonans and our nation’s citizens are safer.”

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be used to increase border surveillance of illegal activities. Additional helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft will also be deployed.

“We believe the use of UAVs and increased aviation operations will greatly enhance the capabilities of the more than 200 additionally deployed Border Patrol agents bringing the Tucson Sector to more than 2000 strong,” said Under Secretary Hutchinson. “Increasing the capacity of our detention and removal facilities along with a focused effort with the government of Mexico to use every available tool to break the cycle of death to migrants in these dangerous terrains where smugglers value profits more than human life will be used.”

The ABC Initiative expected to cost in excess of $10 million until the end of FY ’04 follows Operation ICE Storm, a comprehensive Homeland Security effort to combat and prosecute human smugglers and dismantle smuggling organizations- with a particular focus in Arizona. Since October 2003, ICE Storm has resulted in more than 2,059 criminal and administrative arrests, 162 indictments, as well as the seizure of 86 assault weapons and nearly $2.5 million. Local police have credited ICE Storm with a more than 30 percent drop in homicides in the Phoenix area in the last quarter of 2003, compared to the same period the previous year.

Fact Sheet: U.S. Land Borders


* Enhance the security of U.S. citizens and visitors

* Facilitate legitimate travel and trade

* Ensure the integrity of the immigration system

* Safeguard the privacy of visitors to the U.S.


US-VISIT is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security because it enhances security for our citizens and visitors while facilitating legitimate travel and trade across our borders.

US-VISIT is a continuum of security measures that begins before an individual enters the United States and continues through arrival and departure from the United States. It incorporates eligibility determinations made by both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.

Using biometrics such as digital, inkless fingerscans and digital photographs, the Department of Homeland Security is able to determine whether the person applying for entry to the United States is the same person who was issued the visa by the Department of State. Additionally, the biometric and biographic data are checked against watchlists, improving the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to make admissibility decisions as well as the Department of State’s ability to make visa determinations.

Should the traveler seek to adjust status or extend his/her stay, US-VISIT would be updated with any modifications to the individual’s status.

US-VISIT entry procedures are currently in place at 115 airports and 14 seaports. This year, US-VISIT will be expanded to the 50 busiest land ports of entry.


The law requires that an automated entry-exit program be implemented at the 50 busiest land ports of entry by December 31, 2004, and at all ports of entry by December 31, 2005.

The 50 busiest land ports of entry process 94 percent of the foreign visitors who enter and exit the United States through land borders. A list of the 50 busiest land ports of entry can be found in Appendix A.

US-VISIT currently applies to most foreign nationals who apply for admission into the United States pursuant to a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa. Visitors who are waived visa requirements are not subject to US-VISIT at this time.

Today, most visitors with visas who cross our land borders are referred to secondary inspection for processing. After January 1, 2005, this secondary inspection will include US-VISIT processing, collecting two index fingers scanned on an inkless device and a digital photograph. This will allow the CBP officer to match the visitor’s information against the information collected by the Department of State at visa issuance. We expect US-VISIT procedures will take roughly 10-15 seconds during the secondary inspection process as they do today at air and sea ports.


The Department of Homeland Security is committed to developing a solution for the processing of Border Crossing Card (BCC) holders.

Most Mexican citizens who travel to and from the United States regularly may apply for a multi-use travel document, B1/B2 Visa/BCC also known as a “laser visa”, which serves as either a BCC or a B1/B2 visa. Mexican citizens who use the travel document only as a BCC will not initially be subject to US-VISIT processing during primary inspection inasmuch as their biometric data (fingerscans and photographs) is captured during the BCC issuance process. This is an interim solution for the land border while the Department explores the long term solution to record the entry and exit of persons crossing our land ports of entry.

When admitted under the BCC program, Mexican citizens may stay in the United States for up to 72 hours and travel within the “border zone” (within 25 miles of the border in Texas, California and New Mexico, and 75 miles of the border in Arizona). Approximately 6.8 million Mexican nationals today utilize a BCC to make approximately 104 million crossings per year when using the card as a BCC card only.

Prior to issuing a BCC to a Mexican citizen, the Department of State conducts biographic and biometric checks on the individual. The fingerscans and photograph of the Mexican citizen are then embedded into the BCC. A holder of a BCC is inspected to determine that he or she is the rightful bearer of the document when crossing through a U.S. port of entry.

As the next phase of US-VISIT is implemented at southern land ports of entry by the end of 2004, if a Mexican citizen chooses to use the BCC as a B1/B2 visa (traveling outside the “border zone” and/or staying longer than 72 hours in the U.S.), he or she will undergo US-VISIT processing at the land border secondary inspection areas.

In certain circumstances, Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers may have reason to believe the person presenting the BCC is not the person to whom it was issued. At that point, the individual would be sent to secondary inspection to determine if there are any problems with the BCC, which could include running the BCC through a biometric reader or processing the person through US-VISIT.

Readers for BCC’s will be deployed at the 50 busiest land ports of entry by the end of June 2004. The intent in the future is to meld the BCC biometric check with the US-VISIT biometric database.


Since most Canadian citizens are visa exempt, they are currently not subject to the US-VISIT process.

Canadian citizens who are required to obtain a visa in order to be admitted to the United States will be enrolled in US-VISIT upon entry.


The Department of Homeland Security is continuing to work with the U.S. Department of State, building on the biographic and biometric collection that is already underway at U.S. consulates around the world. By October 2004, all 211 visa-issuing posts overseas will be collecting biometric data from visa applicants.

Land ports across the northern and southern borders present a unique challenge. The Department of Homeland Security is working in partnership with the private sector to identify the optimum set of solutions for land border processing.

We are currently looking at ways to use technology to facilitate travel and collect entry and exit data. To that end, we are planning to test Radio Frequency (RF) technology at select primary entry and exit lanes of the 50 busiest land border crossings. These plans are not part of the statutory mandate for December 31, 2004.


The land border solution will be designed to be fast and easy, but also secure. Both the President of the United States and the United States Congress mandated that border security enhancements not adversely affect legitimate travel and trade. The Department is committed to meeting that mandate.


US-VISIT has published a Privacy Impact Assessment that ensures that personal information is used appropriately, protected from misuse and improper disclosure, and destroyed when no longer needed. This will be updated as necessary.

Personal data will be securely stored and is made available only to authorized officials and selected law enforcement agencies on a need-to-know basis to help protect the nation against those who intend harm to U.S. citizens or visitors and to ensure integrity in our immigration system.

US-VISIT will comply with all environmental laws and regulations.