Mr. CARNEY. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 1148) to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a program in the maritime environment for the mobile biometric identification of suspected individuals, including terrorists, to enhance border security.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. MARITIME BIOMETRIC IDENTIFICATION.
(a) In General.--Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall conduct, in the maritime environment, a program for the mobile biometric identification of suspected individuals, including terrorists, to enhance border security and for other purposes.
(b) Requirements.--The Secretary shall ensure the program described in subsection (a) is coordinated with other biometric identification programs within the Department of Homeland Security.
(c) Cost Analysis.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate an analysis of the cost of expanding the Department's biometric identification capabilities for use by departmental maritime assets considered appropriate
by the Secretary. The analysis may include a tiered plan for the deployment of the program described in subsection (a) that gives priority to vessels and units more likely to encounter individuals suspected of making unlawful border crossings through the maritime environment.
(d) Definition.--For the purposes of this section, the term ``biometric identification'' means the use of fingerprint and digital photography images.
Mr. CARNEY. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and insert extraneous materials on the bill under consideration.
Mr. CARNEY. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1148, a bill that will enhance the Department of Homeland Security's ability to execute its border security mission in the maritime environment.
The U.S. coastline extends over 95,000 miles, and every day illegal immigrants and potential terrorists attempt to bypass the Department of Homeland Security watchdogs--the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection--in their efforts to sneak into the United States. Many of these individuals have already been convicted of felonies in the United States, and many more are wanted by U.S. law enforcement on outstanding warrants for felonies and other dangerous crimes.
As the lead Federal agency charged with border security, it is DHS's mission to keep dangerous people out of our country. H.R. 1148 authorizes DHS to use technology that has been successfully piloted by the Coast Guard and the US-VISIT program since November of 2006 to identify dangerous people before they cross our borders and to better coordinate prosecution with Federal law enforcement agencies.
For example, as of March 3, 2009, the department has collected biometric information from 2,455 individuals interdicted in the Mona Pass, a 90-mile stretch of water in the Caribbean between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
DHS uses satellite technology to immediately compare the individual's fingerprints against the US-VISIT databases, which includes information about wanted criminals, immigration violators, and those who have previously encountered government authorities. Of these nearly 2,500 individuals who have been checked, almost 600 people have been found to have outstanding wants and warrants in the United States.
To date, Federal prosecutors have successfully prosecuted 271, or 45 percent, of the matched individuals. As a [Page: H3764]
result, migrant flow in the Mona Pass has been reduced by 75 percent since November 17, 2006.
I would like to note that my colleague on the Management, Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, Representative Bilirakis, had already an identical bill in the 110th Congress. And I was pleased to support his homeland security measure that passed the House by a vote of 394-3, with one Member voting present.
I urge my fellow Members to vote for this bill, one which gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the tools she needs to secure our Nation's maritime border.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. BILIRAKIS. I yield myself, Mr. Speaker, as much time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 1148 which I introduced earlier this year. This bill directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a cost analysis and determine the most appropriate places to expand upon a successful pilot program conducted by the Coast Guard that collects biometric information on illegal aliens interdicted at sea. This tool, as used by the Coast Guard, has made a measurable impact on our border security and could be used by other DHS components with assets
in the maritime environment, such as Customs and Border Protection. The expansion of this program will further enhance the Department's efforts to secure our borders.
The February 3 episode of Homeland Security U.S.A. showed the Coast Guard using this technology at sea when it rescued a boat full of illegal aliens attempting to make it from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. As a result of the use of these biometrics, the Coast Guard was able to identify and detain 10 individuals with criminal records in the United States, including a repeat human smuggler who was wanted by Customs and Border Protection. This episode illustrated the use of biometrics at
sea and on land. It works. In fact, the Coast Guard has reported that illegal migration in the Mona Pass, the narrow body of water between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, has been reduced by 75 percent as a result of the biometrics program.
Since the beginning of the Coast Guard's biometrics pilot in the Caribbean in November, 2006, the Coast Guard has collected biometric data from 2,455 migrants using handheld scanners. This has resulted in the identification of 598 individuals with criminal records, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has prosecuted 271 individuals for violations of U.S. law, with a 100 percent conviction rate.
We have seen the success of this pilot program. It ensures that individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally by sea that have criminal records will not simply be returned to their homelands. They will be detained so they cannot attempt to enter the U.S. again.
It is now time for the Department to determine the best and most effective manner to expand this program to enhance border security. I hope the Department will deploy this program in the most risk-based, cost-efficient manner possible consistent with the current appropriations of the Coast Guard and other DHS components. I also look forward to expanding the appropriations for this program. And I urge my colleagues to join me in this effort.
This is the third time that the House is considering legislation to authorize this program. An amendment I offered to the Coast Guard Authorization Act that was similar to the bill was considered, it was passed actually, last year by a voice vote on April 24. In addition, the House passed a stand-alone version of that amendment last summer, as Mr. Carney said, with his support, at 394-3.
The biometrics program is another tool that is being used by the Department in its effort to secure our borders. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 1148.
I reserve the balance of my time.