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Pilot Program Asks Travelers Crossing Into Mexico For ID, Biometric Scans

A pedestrian crossing the border at Otay Mesa submits to a biometric scanner, Feb. 18, 2016.

Aired 2/19/16 on KPBS News.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will test biometric scanners for foreign travelers crossing into Mexico at Otay Mesa. All travelers will have to show identification.

Pedestrians at the Otay Mesa border crossing will have to document their departure from the United States, under a test being piloted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

U.S. citizens walking across the border at Otay Mesa will have to show identification before crossing into Mexico. Beginning Monday, foreign travelers will have to submit to a biometric scan of their face and iris.

"Really, the goal is to find out if the image that was taken when the person entered the country can successfully, with minimal impact, be captured at exit and we can somewhat close that loop of travel," said Charmaine Rodriguez, assistant port director at Otay Mesa.

About 9,000 pedestrians cross north into the U.S. each day at Otay Mesa. Customs officials said they are under a Congressional mandate to document everyone who leaves the U.S. The test is to find equipment that will allow customs to do this effectively, with minimal disruption for travelers, according to border officials.

Similar scanners are being tested indoors at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. The data being collected could ultimately be shared with other law enforcement agencies, Rodriguez said. Though for now, the information is being kept in a separate database inside U.S. Customs.

The test at the Otay Mesa pedestrian crossing is scheduled to run until May.

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