The federal government on Thursday began collecting facial and eye scans of foreigners entering the U.S. at a busy border crossing with Mexico, a first step in one of its most ambitious efforts to track people who stay in the country illegally after their visas expire.

Up to half of the people in the U.S. illegally are believed to have overstayed their visas, but the absence of a checkout system has left authorities with no way to identify them.

In a push to change that, Customs and Border Protection began scanning foreigners entering on foot at San Diego’s Otay Mesa port of entry. In February, it will start collecting the same information on foreigners walking into Mexico through the checkpoint.

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