Elmira/Corning Regional Airport

New finger print and retina scan bill debated in Congress

New finger print and retina scan bill debated in Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. (09/26/2013) - Every September, the events of September 11th, 2001 become fresh again in the minds of so many people here in the area and across the country.

But 12 years later, lawmakers on Capitol Hill say there's still a big gap in our national security.

Could the horrific events of September 11th have been prevented? It's hard to say for sure. One thing we do know is four of the airline hijackers overstayed their visas.

Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller (MI) says over 40 percent of people in the U.S. illegally didn't sneak across the border - they came in right through the front door, and are on a visa overstay.

"We know who's coming in, but we're not tracking very well who's going out," Miller said.

Remember the 9/11 Commission? One of their key recommendations was the implementation of a biometric exit system, such as fingerprints and retina scanners to better identify someone as they leave the country.

But a dozen years after the attacks, it's still not a reality.

So Miller has introduced a bill that would mandate a timeline for the Department of Homeland Security to implement the system. Within two years, it would be implemented in the nation's top ten airports and seaports, and within five years it would be implemented everywhere else. It would also be implemented at land border crossings within three years.

"The Department of Homeland Security is very open to this legislation. I think they've been looking for a nudge," Miller said.

But Miller made clear none of the biometric information would be collected on U.S. citizens.

"We're just trying to make sure that those who came here to the United States on a visa…that we have the proper information, so that we make sure they exit at the expiration of their visa," Miller said.

The Biometric Exit System Bill has bipartisan support, including from ranking member Sheila Jackson Lee, who's a co-sponsor.