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Those who backed the change said the government has proved that it won’t ever meet the biometric standard.

“Current law is a concept. And there is apparently not a whole lot of will by Republicans or Democrats to make the concept a reality,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said during the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Janet A. Napolitano, as homeland security secretary, testified that the photo method the Senate was proposing was nearly as good.

“The difference between that and a biometric is not as great as you would think,” she said. “That is our current plan, to do enhanced biographic at the exits of our country — land, air and sea — and then move gradually, because it’s very, very expensive, into biometric.”

During the Senate debate, lawmakers did adopt an amendment creating a biometric pilot program at some airports, but Ms. Kephart said the final bill conflicts with itself so it’s not clear what exactly is required.

The debate has shifted to the House, where there are competing proposals. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill setting a two-year deadline for the administration to implement current law. A bill that cleared the Homeland Security Committee would give federal authorities the option of coming up with an alternative strategy — as long as it met the same security goals.

Ms. Kephart’s solution applies only to air and sea ports. She said land border crossings require a different solution — though she said that, too, should be possible.

Bolstering her case in the report were industry players who said biometrics could be implemented.

The International Biometrics & Identification Association, in a letter to six senators during this year’s immigration debate, said the technology has been tried and is reasonable.

“The industry is confident that it can implement an effective, reliable and efficient biometric exit program at U.S. airports that process international travelers, using proven and reliable off the shelf technologies and without disrupting airline operations and passenger travel,” Tovah LaDier, the association’s managing director, said in the letter.