The Department of Homeland Security has implemented several new measures, including automation and collaboration with other agencies, to reduce the number of backlogged, unvetted visas.
Rand Beers, DHS’ under secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, noted that the agency has vetted 843,000 out of 1.6 million visa overstays since a General Accounting Office report issued in April on the subject.
But the backlog continues to represent a challenge.
Speaking before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security July 13th, he said the remaining 757,000 unchecked visas are being run through Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) automated Advanced Targeting System (ATS), which checks potential overstays against other databases to see if those individuals have changed their immigration status or left the country.
Information from ATS is sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which then identifies potentially problematic visas and, in a new step, to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). NCTC adds additional information from the intelligence community. Additional potentially problematic visas which are not noted by ICE but are flagged by the intelligence community are then shared with the agency.
Beers also stated that DHS is working on making the government’s three largest biometric systems completely interoperable. Those systems are the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) Program’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) and the Department of Defense’s Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS).
The day before Beers’ testimony, GAO issued a report stating that the Department of State needs to work more closely with foreign governments and other government agencies as well as step up its overseas training program to improve its international counterterrorism efforts.