CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 1148 is being considered on the floor under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) on February 24, 2009.
H.R. 1148 would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to expand the Coast Guard's mobile maritime biometric identification program of suspected individuals, including terrorists, to enhance border security and for other purposes. The Secretary would ensure that the program is coordinated with other biometric programs within DHS and would submit a cost analysis of expanding the existing pilot program.
On July 29, 2008, the House passed a similar bill to H.R. 1148 by a vote of 394-3. The Senate never considered that legislation.
In November of 2006, the "Biometric Identification at Sea Pilot Project" was launched by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow the Coast Guard to collect biometric information, namely fingerprints and digital photographs, from foreign persons interdicted in the Caribbean so that they may be run against criminal the terrorist databases. Such biometric information is collected using hand held scanners.
This bill would simply authorize the expansion of the pilot program by encouraging its full deployment. Since the pilot program's inception, illegal migration in the area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic has been reduced by 75%. The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Juan, Puerto Rico has commenced 271 prosecutions (with a 100% conviction rate) for violations of U.S. immigration and criminal laws based in part upon criminal and immigration histories of migrants and smugglers obtained through the Coast Guard's biometrics pilot program. For example, one individual interdicted at sea had an outstanding warrant for armed robbery in New Jersey. He was remanded to the State of New Jersey.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet produced a cost estimate for H.R. 1148, but a similar bill considered in the 110th Congress was estimated to have no impact on the federal budget.