Buffalo, NY - As the White House released a newly revised executive order applying to immigration there was also a change in certain screening requirements for the Peace Bridge and other border crossings.
The original executive order from the White House last month called for the use of what's called "biometric screening" at the Peace Bridge and other border crossings. It was a real concern for the managers who operate the bridge which is one of the busiest border crossings.
This technology using facial recognition, fingerprints, and even retinal scans in some cases, has been brought up since the 1990's and even by the 9/11 commission after the attacks as a method to verify identity. And it would have been required for all travelers entering and exiting the US.
Now under the revised order US and Canadian citizens will be exempted from this type of screening. It would be limited to so-called "in-scope" travelers from other countries for which they need specific checks.
Peace Bridge officials say processing at the inspection booths for motorists would have required costly technology and held up bridge traffic.
Peace Bridge General Manager Ron Rienas says, "No one has explained to us how it would be done. Would people have to get out of their cars and trucks and buses to go inside for the biometric? Would it be done remotely at the primary inspection booth? So obviously if it was intended to be implemented without it being thought out it could have tripled or quadrupled the processing time for vehicles entering the U.S."
It's been estimated it would have cost $400 million dollars to install this equipment around the country.
Again, there was also talk of exit screening but where would the equipment for that be placed in the relatively space limited plazas coming off the bridges.
Rienas says the US and Canada border service agencies currently readily share such identity information.
Rienas along with the WNY Congressional delegation pressed the White House and Homeland Security for this exemption.
There has been a government pilot test for biometric screening on the US - Mexico border in San Diego but that was strictly for pedestrians crossing over the bridges.