Border Cities to Use IRIS Scanning Technology to Identify Illegal Immigrants

Criminals and illegal immigrants who get booked into jail along the southwest border will soon have one less way to hide their identity. Their eyes will be photographed with the Inmate Recognition and Identification System (IRIS). The device takes a picture of their iris, which according to police, is more accurate than a fingerprint.

El Paso became the first jurisdiction both in Texas and along the southwest border to receive the technology Friday. Sean Mullin, CEO of BI2 Technologies, who creates IRIS said it will be in every jurisdiction in the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Association by the end of the year. That makes up 31 jurisdictions between Brownsville, Texas and San Diego.

Cameron County on the southeast tip of Texas will receive IRIS in the next two weeks and Val Verde County will get on board soon after, according to Larry Guerra, Executive Director for the Texas and South West Border Sheriff’s Coalition.

According to multiple law enforcement officials, IRIS could have an impact on the fight against illegal crossings. Illegal immigrants, like other criminals, often use aliases to disguise their true identity and prevent law enforcement from learning they’ve already been captured.

The El Paso County Jail brings in a little over 30 thousand inmates a year, 16 percent of which are inmates held for the Border Patrol and ICE according to El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles.

He added in the last year, over 14,000 inmates who were scanned in one jurisdiction, were arrested again in another jurisdiction and identified using their iris. The fingerprint process can take up to four hours to check local, state and federal databases. It takes less than 20 seconds for IRIS to get a match, according to Wiles. In addition, fingerprints can come back with multiple potential matches, IRIS comes back with one.

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