Planning to work, engage in business or research, tour or study in the United States? Thinking about entering the country from one of the land borders in Arizona, New York or Washington State? Well if you are, then you will be enrolled in a new Homeland Security Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) pilot program at the land ports of Nogales East (Deconcini) and Nogales West (Mariposa) in Arizona; Alexandria Bay (Thousand Islands) in New York; and Pacific Highway and Peace Arch in Washington State.

Since August 4, 2005, the Form I-94 you receive upon entry at one of these ports – the “Admission/Departure Record” that confirms your nonimmigrant visa category and period of admission – will be embedded with an RFID chip that can be read from a distance of 30 feet. An RFID reader will reveal a number tied to your file at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and your entry and departure from the U.S. (assuming you also leave from one of these ports) will be tracked electronically.

But how else might your movements be tracked?

The DHS has gone to great lengths in its Federal Register notice to describe its privacy protections and try to reassure us that there will be tight controls on access to, and use of, the RFID-enabled records. The agency has even published a Privacy Impact Statement, and offered soothing words in a recent press release:

“There are layers of defense to ensure privacy: no personal information will be included on the RFID tag; and the serial number on the tag cannot be changed. Additionally, personal information is only processed within DHS databases and RFID technology tags are tamper proof and difficult to counterfeit, with security features to prevent the misuse of information.”

But to this blogger, as reported in the linked article (“Electronic Tags to Track Immigrants”), the electronic surveillance of nonimmigrants’ entries and departures may be just the nose of the camel under liberty’s tent and may portend even greater encroachments on civil rights and privacy.

Well, if you share these concerns, let your voice be heard. The DHS is soliciting written comments, which must be submitted on or before October 3, 2005

Here is how the government explains the procedure:

“You may submit comments identified by DHS-2005-0011 to the
Docket Management Facility at the EPA. To avoid duplication, please use only one of the following methods:

“Web site: Follow the instructions for submitting comments at that Web site.

“Mail: Written comments may be submitted to Craig Howie,
US-VISIT, Border and Transportation Security; Department of Homeland Security; 1616 North Fort Myer Drive, 18th Floor, Arlington, VA 22209.”