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[IWS] CRS: BORDER SECURITY: IMMIGRATION INSPECTIONS AT PORTS OF ENTRY [31 October 2014]

IWS Documented News Service
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Congressional Research Service (CRS)

Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Ports of Entry
Lisa Seghetti,  Section Research Manager
October 31, 2014
[full-text, 41 pages]

Summary
About 362 million travelers (citizens and non-citizens) entered the United States in FY2013,
including about 102 million air passengers and crew, 18 million sea passengers and crew, and 242
million land travelers. At the same time about 205,000 aliens were denied admission at ports of
entry (POEs); and about 24,000 persons were arrested at POEs on criminal warrants.

Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s
(CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) is responsible for conducting immigration inspections at
America’s 329 POEs. CBP’s primary immigration enforcement mission at ports of entry is to
confirm that travelers are eligible to enter the United States and to exclude inadmissible aliens.
Yet strict enforcement is in tension with a second core mission: to facilitate the flow of lawful
travelers, who are the vast majority of persons seeking admission. A fundamental question for
Congress and DHS is how to balance these competing concerns.

In general, DHS and CBP rely on “risk management” to strike this balance. One part of the risk
management strategy is to conduct screening at multiple points in the immigration process,
beginning well before travelers arrive at U.S. POEs. DHS and other departments involved in the
inspections process use a number of screening tools to distinguish between known, low-risk
travelers and lesser-known, higher-risk travelers. Low-risk travelers may be eligible for expedited
admissions processing, while higher-risk travelers are usually subject to more extensive
secondary inspections.

As part of its dual mission and in support of its broader mandate to manage the U.S. immigration
system, DHS also is responsible for implementing an electronic entry-exit system at POEs.
Congress required DHS’ predecessor to develop an entry-exit system beginning in 1996, but the
implementation of a fully automated, biometric system has proven to be an elusive goal. The
current system collects and stores biographic entry data (e.g., name, date of birth, travel history)
from almost all non-citizens entering the United States, but only collects biometric data (e.g.,
fingerprints and digital photographs) from non-citizens entering at air or seaports, and from a
subset of land travelers that excludes most Mexican and Canadian visitors. With respect to exit
data, the current system relies on information sharing agreements with air and sea carriers and
with Canada to collect biographic data from air and sea travelers and from certain non-citizens
exiting through northern border land ports; but the system does not collect data from persons
exiting by southern border land ports and does not collect any biometric exit data. Questions also
have been raised about DHS’ ability to use existing entry-exit data to identify and apprehend visa
overstayers.

The inspections process and entry-exit system continued to be perennial issues for Congress and a
number of questions persist, including in the context of the ongoing debate about immigration
reform and in the context of screening for infectious diseases at POEs due to heightened concerns
about the health screening of people arriving in the United States from the Ebola infected areas in
West Africa. What is the scope of illegal migration through ports of entry, and how can Congress
and DHS minimize illegal flows without unduly slowing legal travel? The 113th Congress
considered steps to enhance POE personnel and infrastructure, primarily through the
appropriations process. The 113th Congress passed legislation that required the completion of the
entry-exit system, a program that has been the subject of ongoing legislative activity since 1996,
as summarized in the Appendix to this report.

Contents
Introduction ...................................................................................................................................... 1
Immigration Inspections: Policy Goals ............................................................................................ 2
Legislative History ........................................................................................................................... 4
Inspections for Admission ......................................................................................................... 4
Entry-Exit System: Legislative Requirements .......................................................................... 5
Travel Facilitation ...................................................................................................................... 6
The Immigration Inspections Process .............................................................................................. 6
Pre-travel Screening .................................................................................................................. 6
Primary Inspections ................................................................................................................. 10
Preclearance ...................................................................................................................... 11
I-94 Arrival/Departure Records ......................................................................................... 12
Secondary Inspections and Immigration Enforcement ............................................................ 12
Inspection Outcomes ......................................................................................................... 12
Immigration Enforcement ................................................................................................. 14
Random Compliance Examination (COMPEX) Program ................................................. 16
Trusted Traveler Programs ...................................................................................................... 18
Outbound Enforcement .................................................................................................................. 20
Entry-Exit System: Implementation .............................................................................................. 22
Entry-Exit Databases ............................................................................................................... 22
Collection of Entry Data .......................................................................................................... 23
Collection of Exit Data ............................................................................................................ 24
Overstay Analysis .................................................................................................................... 28
Issues for Congress ........................................................................................................................ 29
Screening for Infectious diseases at POEs .............................................................................. 29
Entry-Exit System: Issues for Congress .................................................................................. 31
Illegal Migration through Ports of Entry ................................................................................. 32
Port of Entry Infrastructure and Personnel .............................................................................. 33
Trusted Traveler Programs: Issues for Congress ..................................................................... 34

Tables
Table 1. CBP Primary and Secondary Inspections, by Mode of Entry, FY2005-FY2013 ............. 13
Table 2. Immigration Enforcement at Ports of Entry, Selected Outcomes .................................... 15
Table 3. Cumulative Membership in CBP Trusted Traveler Programs, FY2009-FY2013 ............ 20
Table 4. Annual Travelers Admitted, CBP Trusted Traveler Programs, FY2010-FY2013 ............ 20
Table 5. CBP Outbound Enforcement Seizures, FY2009-FY2013 ................................................ 21

Appendixes
Appendix. Entry-Exit System Legislation ..................................................................................... 36

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