ASAE Raises Concerns about Cost of Airport Fingerprinting

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Washington, DC – The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is weighing in on a new high-tech plan for identifying international visitors as they leave the United States.

The ASAE and other travel-oriented associations urged the Department of Homeland Security not to leave beleaguered U.S. airlines holding the estimated $3 billion bill for deploying a sophisticated electronic fingerprint scanning system at U.S. airports, collecting the digital scans of thousands of passengers daily and then promptly sending the images on to the DHS.

Biometric fingerprints recently were tested as a means of identifying travelers entering the United States. The goal of the exit scans is to ensure that people who enter the United States on a visa are the same individuals who leave using that particular visa. The sleight of hand with a visa could allow a terrorist to enter the country and stay while an imposter would depart.

The ASAE says the intended results are certainly worthy; however the program would probably best be left to the DHS to administer and pay for. “Airlines have their own issues at the moment,” Jim Clarke, ASAE senior vice president for public policy, told Trade Show Executive. “We want to make sure this program will be looked at in terms of how it is going to be paid for and how it is going to be conducted so that it works properly.”

“If this is important for security, then it should be handled by the government,” he added.

The ASAE presented its concerns to the DHS in the form of public comments that the DHS will consider as it drafts the new rules for the program. The agency plans to have the program in place at the start of next year.

The biometric fingerprinting, which is part of the DHS’ US-VISIT program, is another facet of the balancing act between homeland security and the international business travel that is critical to the association and trade show industry. “A lot of organizations have international members who travel to meetings in this country,” Clarke said. “We all want to enhance traveler compliance, but we also want those travelers to come here in the first place.”

Reach Jim Clarke at (202) 626-2865 or jclarke@asaenet.org