Aliens soon to be tagged at border
MICROCHIPS: Devices to track entries and exits into the U.S.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Hundreds of thousands of B.C. residents may have to carry a microchip the next time they enter the U.S.
On Thursday, the two busiest B.C. border crossings will begin issuing non-citizens of Canada and the U.S. an electronic chip to record when they leave Canada and when they return.
Canada Customs will help the U.S. scan re-entries into Canada and return the tags to the Americans.
Customs spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi said Canada has no plans to participate in the program beyond that, and that Canada won't set up a similar system of its own.
Civil liberties groups are concerned about privacy issues surrounding the chips and a U.S. lawyer warns that the program could soon expand beyond residents to include Canadian citizens.
The electronic tags are part of a pilot project at the Peace Arch and Pacific Highway border crossings that will run until March.
Mike Milne, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman for Washington state, said it's about finding the best way of tracking when a visitor leaves the U.S.
"As people come into the United States on temporary visas, we create the record," Milne told The Province on Friday. "As they leave, we'll have a good record, identifying that person as having left."
The chip program is part of the US-VISIT border-security program under the Department of Homeland Security. Milne says one in 20 B.C. visitors to the U.S. will be targeted. The microchips will be inserted into their I-94 visas, or placed on car dashboards so they can be scanned.
Milne also says there will be no tracking of visitors inside the U.S.
But Micheal Vonn, speaking for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, isn't so sure.
"We're at least skeptical that this is all about monitoring," Vonn says. "The potential [is] for abuse of this kind of technology."
Vonn notes that residents at U.S. border-crossings have their licence plates photographed when entering and leaving the U.S.
"So what is it they don't know about you, in terms of your entries and exits?" she asks.
Vonn also argues that readers inside the U.S., at public or secret locations, could track a B.C. visitor's movements.
"You can scan a group at a political demonstration, you can scan a group at a mosque," she says.
In the U.S., the American Civil Liberties Union and Muslim groups both oppose the tagging program.
Bellingham immigration lawyer Greg Boos says he's been told at briefing sessions that U.S. border officials eventually want to monitor Canadian citizens -- possibly by tapping into the microchips inside Canadian passports so they can scan them on entry and exit.
Boos says the US-VISIT system is slated to cost $14 billion US and may not catch terrorists.
B.C. residents pay $6 US per person for an I-94 visa, but Boos says that could rise to $50 in order to recoup the massive startup costs.
The US-VISIT program already fingerprints and photographs B.C. residents visiting the U.S. and stores the information. Upon entering and leaving the U.S., visitors have their left and right index fingers scanned and their face photographed -- a system used at the Blaine, Point Roberts, Sumas and Lynden crossings.
U.S. customs offices at Vancouver International Airport and at cruise-ship terminals at Canada Place, Ballantyne Pier and Victoria are also part of US-VISIT
Do you still think the powers that be are looking out for your best intrests or theres