SIA: Biometric ID cards 'sound policy' for immigration

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WASHINGTON—With immigration reform gaining momentum in Congress, the Security Industry Association is calling on lawmakers to approve biometrics on identity cards to ensure the highest level of security at U.S. entry points.

A hearing on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, was scheduled this week in the Senate. If the bill passes it would then go to the House, where the debate over immigration reform has been more fractious.

 Marcus Dunn, director of government relations for SIA, said identity cards are likely to be a part of any reform measure, but there has been no agreement on whether they should include biometrics.

“Whether we get a biometric inserted on that card or not, we think it’s one of the better ways to ensure that a person is who they say they are,” Dunn told Security Systems News. “That’s sound policy in our minds.”

Dunn said “a sizable number” of SIA members are involved in biometrics and they have proven that the technology works.

“Our manufacturers and engineers and the developers, anyone who has used a card with a biometric, knows it really is a more secure card,” he said. “So that’s what we’re seeking to do, to have the highest level of assurance.”

Among the challenges facing SIA are privacy concerns at both ends of the political spectrum.

“In the middle, I think it’s generally agreed that [biometrics] is a good idea,” Dunn said. “On the fringes of the left and right, you’ve got people who aren’t so sure. There’s some concern about how that information is stored and how it is used.”

What’s next for TWIC?

The Transportation Worker Identification Credential [TWIC] program was dealt a blow in May with the release of a Government Accountability Office report critical of pilot testing at U.S. ports. But Dunn said SIA still sees great value in TWIC, including expanded deployment of biometric card readers.

SIA’s next move will be to send a letter to the GAO voicing the group’s thoughts about the report and its support for the program, Dunn said.

“We’ll copy the appropriate members of Congress as well to help them formulate their opinions,” he said. “I think everybody’s thinking, ‘OK, now we have all of this [information], what’s the next step and how are we going to move forward?’ We’re definitely going to be part of that conversation. We have been from the beginning and it would make sense to be at this juncture as well.”

School security funds on hold

Dunn said SIA was continuing to work with the office of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on reintroducing a bill to provide $40 million a year for school security funding. The Senate rejected the measure in April after it was attached to a larger bill to expand background checks on gun purchases.

“The office has assured me that they’re looking at opportunities to move it forward,” he said. “We also met with the office of Congresswoman Susan Brooks [R-Ind.] about her possible involvement [on a bill for school security funding]. If the House is going to do anything, it’s probably going to be after the August recess.”