San Ysidro and Otay Mesa pedestrian border crossings add biometric facial technology


San Ysidro and Otay Mesa pedestrian border crossings add biometric facial technology

The San Ysidro and Otay Mesa pedestrian border crossings are among the latest ports of entry that recently added new biometric facial comparison technology to screen travelers, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced this month.

Here’s how it works: Once a traveler arrives at the primary inspection points at the pedestrian lanes or undergoes the I-94 permit processing, he or she will pause for a photo.

An officer will retrieve the traveler’s passport or visa photo from the government database and will compare it to the new one taken on-site; authorities explained. This process only takes a few seconds and is about 97 percent accurate, CBP said.

This program, called Simplified Arrival, had already been put in place in other ports of entry between Mexico and California, such as in Tecate, Andrade, and the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) terminal.

It is also in at least 27 airports in the U.S. for international arrivals, and 26, do so on exits, CBP said back in December.

“CBP is excited to announce the successful expansion of biometric facial comparison technology to the nation’s largest land border port of entry, San Ysidro, and the Otay Mesa pedestrian border crossing to further secure and streamline entry into the United States,” Diane J. Sabatino, deputy executive assistant commissioner of Field Operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a press release.

U.S. citizens and those foreign nationals who are not required to provide biometrics can opt-out of this process and can let an officer know upon arrival, so they will be subject to the usual inspection.

CBP said they have taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers. New photos taken of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours, while those of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure system.

Back in December, the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations submitted a comment in opposition to the expansion of biometric data collection at U.S. airports and other ports of entry.

According to CBP, more than 59 million travelers have participated in the biometric facial comparison at air, land, and maritime ports of entry. In the last two years, this technology has prevented more than 300 people from illegally entering the country using genuine travel documents issued to other people.

In 2019, the San Ysidro Port of Entry processed nearly 40 million travelers. By 2020, and due in large part to the border travel restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the number dropped to 24 million.

The Otay Mesa Port of Entry, considered the fourth largest in the country, processed 16 million passengers in 2019, and about 10 million last year.




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