The newest technology in the U.S. government’s effort to improve border security – radio frequency identification devices, or RFID – is being testing with a pilot program at a border crossing in El Paso, Texas.
The 90-day program allows travelers who have approved RFID documents to cross the El Paso/Mexico border through two special RFID-only lanes. Officials say that traveling across a border with RFID documents is faster and more efficient than traveling with traditional documentation. The estimate is that wait times are approximately 25 percent shorter with RFID.
Travelers passing through one of the new lanes must first hold their RFID documents up near the windows of the vehicle on the driver’s side. A machine scans the microchips inside of them and transmits the information – which includes the driver’s name, age, sex and address – to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in a booth. The process is significantly quicker because an officer does not have to manually input the travelers’ information into the computer.
RFID documents became mandatory for all U.S. and Canadian citizens over the age of 16 crossing into the United Sates as a result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative which went into effect in June of 2009. Available documents include U.S. passport cards, Legal Permanent Resident “green card” cards, Border Crossing Cards and most new passports. Some states also offer RFID enabled “enhanced” driver’s licenses.
Officials say WHTI compliant RFID documents will not only cut down crossing time, but also protect the U.S. from terrorism. WHTI was signed into law after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and is a part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. Because RFID information is more difficult to replicate, officials expect WHTI to curb fraudulent documents.
The El Paso “Ready Lanes” will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and are the first in the U.S. to be open only to travelers with RFID documents. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have been distributing fliers to travelers and posting large signs at borders informing them of the new options.
Many expect the program to become more widespread if the El Paso program is successful and cuts down wait times while preventing fraudulent crossings.
Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com