Mexico, U.S. agree on Trusted Traveler Program

Published 8 December 2010

The U.S. and Mexican governments signed agreements Tuesday designed to improve airline security as Mexico continues its war against drug cartels; a key part of the agreement is a trusted traveler program that allows airline passengers who have undergone rigorous background checks to bypass lengthy screenings at airport checkpoints. They also must provide biometric information — such as fingerprints — that can be encoded onto trusted traveler cards and run through electronic card readers

The U.S. and Mexican governments signed agreements Tuesday designed to improve airline security as Mexico continues its war against drug cartels. The two countries also agreed to seek ways to protect immigrants, who are often targeted by criminals as they cross over the international border.

“In the face of ever-evolving multinational threats, the United States is committed to working with our international partners to enhance information-sharing and our mutual security,” DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.

She signed the treaty on behalf of the United States at a ceremony in Mexico City.

AHN reports that a key part of the agreement is a trusted traveler program that allows airline passengers who have undergone rigorous background checks to bypass lengthy screenings at airport checkpoints. They also must provide biometric information – such as fingerprints – that can be encoded onto trusted traveler cards and run through electronic card readers.

The travelers also must answer customs declaration questions on touch-screen kiosks, then present transaction receipts to customs agents before leaving the inspection area.

The program thus gives Customs and Border Protection agents more time to focus on searching other travelers and their baggage, or what Napolitano called the “greatest risk.”

The new method for screening passengers is based on Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program.

Another part of the agreement called for greater information sharing about travelers.

Mexican Interior Ministry secretary Jose Francisco Blake Mora signed the treaty on behalf of Mexico.

He said the treaty opens a dialogue on methods “to reduce the flow of arms into Mexico and strengthen border security.”

Illegal weapons imported into Mexico are a hot topic in the drug war that started in December 2006, when Mexican president Felipe Calderon ordered troops to help crack down on gangs.

Mexico blames the United States for failing to prevent weapons from being shipped illegally across the border to be used against the police and military.

The U.S. government says Mexico shares the blame for allowing drug cartels to gain too much power.

Blake Mora said about 84 million Mexicans could qualify for the Global Entry program. “It facilitates the entry of business travelers and tourists, whose activities are key factors for economic development, growth of trade and cultural exchange,” he said.

Napolitano and Blake Mora also signed a “letter of intent” to develop a plan for protecting immigrants from attacks by criminals as they cross the border.

The Mexican government occasionally has expressed anger at the way illegal immigrants are robbed, beaten or murdered but are given no protection by U.S. law enforcement agents.

Blake Mora said the letter of intent is supposed to create cooperation that would help “combat trafficking and reduce the risk to life and security of migrants who are victims of crime.”

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