Does Securing Borders Hurt Business?
DALLAS – Nearly 300 criminals and immigration violators have been caught in the U.S. since January, when the government began high-tech finger scanning and photographing of foreigners at airports and seaports, according to the Department of Homeland Security (search).
But now that this technology is being used, local business leaders worry that the security program, called U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology System (search) or US-VISITS, is killing business.
The program, designed to keep terrorists out of the country, has become the new way for foreigners to prove they are who they say they are at land ports in Port Huron, Mich., Douglas, Ariz. and Laredo, Texas. The post-9/11 tool uses biometrics technology to take laser finger scans and digital photographs of people who plan to stay in the U.S. for an extended period of time.
Supporters of the program say it keeps the bad guys out and lets the good guys in.
"We want people that are coming in here to do commerce, to visit, for tourists. We certainly don't need anybody that's coming in to harm the United States,” said Gene Garza, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection port director. “So I think US-VISITS is doing that very effectively."
Laredo business leaders say it's too soon to tell if that is true. They say that if visitors are being delayed, that translates into lost profits.
“I think it's important to look at the attitude of how we're treating our friends that come in and out of this country. If we treat the tourists like they're all terrorists, then they're going to look elsewhere," said Gerry Schwebel, a member of the Alliance for Security and Trade (search).
The next wave of land ports that will begin implementing the biometrics technology is set to begin Monday. By Jan. 1, this system will be in place at the busiest 50 U.S. land ports of entry.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Phil Keating.