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[Congressional Record: May 25, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S4501-S4504]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr25my00-293]                         



 
IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE DATA MANAGEMENT IMPROVEMENT ACT 
                                OF 2000

  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate 
proceed to consideration of H.R. 4489, which is at the desk.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the bill by title.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (H.R. 4489) to amend section 110 of the Illegal 
     Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, 
     and for other purposes.

  There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the bill.
  Mr. ABRAHAM. Mr. President, I support the passage of H.R. 4489, the 
Immigration and Naturalization Service Data Management Improvement Act 
of 2000, which makes very important revisions to section 110 of the 
1996 Immigration Act. I, along with many of my colleagues, introduced 
an identical Senate companion to this bill, S. 2599, late last week.
  As originally enacted, section 110 of the 1996 law mandated that an 
automated system be established to record the entry and exit of all 
aliens as a means to provide more information on individuals who 
``overstay'' their visas. In the opinion of many, it became clear that 
this well-intentioned measure, if implemented, could have an unforeseen 
impact. Today, when INS or Customs officials inspect people at land 
borders, they examine papers as necessary and make quick 
determinations, using their discretion on when to solicit more 
information. Section 110, however, was being understood to require 
revisions to that system that would have greatly complicated travel 
across the land border by mandating that every single passenger of 
every single vehicle be required to provide detailed information in a 
form that could be entered into a computer on the spot. According to 
Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Company, 
even assuming an incredibly quick 30 seconds per individual, the 
traffic delays could exceed 20 hours in numerous jurisdictions at the 
northern border. This would obviously create extraordinary economic and 
environmental harm. Moreover, it would divert scarce law enforcement 
resources away from more effective measures.
  Out of concern for its harmful impact on Michigan and law 
enforcement, I passed legislation in 1998 to delay implementation of 
section 110 from its original start date of September 30, 1998, until 
March 30, 2001. But it remained clear that a delay could not 
sufficiently satisfy concerns that the INS might develop a system that 
would prove harmful to the people of Michigan and other states.
  Fred Upton showed great leadership in the House on this issue and 
served his constituents extraordinarily well in helping to forge this 
compromise. Lamar Smith deserves great credit for working closely with 
us and his other House colleagues in making an agreement that meets the 
economic and security interests of all sides on this issue. And John 
LaFalce also provided important assistance in this effort.
  This is a great victory for the people of Michigan. This agreement 
strikes the right balance in enhancing our security and immigration 
enforcement needs while ensuring that we preserve the jobs and the 
other economic benefits Michigan receives from our close relationship 
with Canada.
  This product of the agreement with the House replaces the current 
requirement that by March 30, 2001, a record of arrival and departure 
be collected for every alien at all ports of entry, with a more 
achievable requirement that the

[[Page S4502]]

Immigration and Naturalization Service develop an ``integrated entry 
and exit data system'' that focuses on data INS already regularly 
collects at ports of entry.
  The goal of section 110 has been to track individuals who overstay 
their allowable stay in the United States. That goal is redirected into 
a more achievable direction. INS will be directed to put in electronic 
and retrievable form the information already collected at ports of 
entry and pursue other measured step to improve enforcement of U.S. 
immigration laws. It is also directed to prepare a report on unmatched 
entry and departure data. That report is required to contain not only 
numbers of unmatched records, but an analysis of those numbers. The 
purpose of the latter requirement is to make sure that sufficient 
context for the data is provided to ensure that readers of the report 
are able to understand to what extent unmatched records reflect actual 
overstays, versus to what extent they are simply a function of data 
weakness (such as a lag time between the acquisition of the data and 
the entry of the data into the system). This will allow those charged 
with assessing the system to be in a better position to recommend its 
proper use and recommend ways of improving it. To that end, and to the 
end of otherwise improving implementation of the section, a task force 
chaired by the Attorney General that will include representatives of 
other government agencies and the private sector is established to 
examine the effectiveness of the system, ways of improving it, and the 
need for and costs of any additional measures, including security 
improvements. The bill also calls for increased international 
cooperation in securing the land borders.
  In essence, the agreement substitutes this approach in place of a 
mandate that a system be developed that would have required that all 
foreign travelers or U.S. permanent residents be individually recorded 
into a system at ports of entry and exit, thereby likely bringing 
traffic to a halt on the northern border for miles, trapping U.S. 
travelers in the process and costing potentially tens of thousands of 
jobs in manufacturing, tourism and other industries. The agreement also 
maintains the status quo in preventing new documentary requirements on 
Canadian travelers.
  The bottom line is that we will have a system that enhances law 
enforcement capabilities and will not impose new or onerous 
requirements on travelers that would damage Americans or the American 
economy.
  I thank the cosponsors of S. 2599, who have been so important in 
achieving success in this long 3-year effort: Senators Leahy, Grams, 
Kennedy, Snowe, Collins, Craig, Gorton, Jeffords, Schumer, Graham, 
Levin, DeWine, Murray, Moynihan, and Voinovich. I also thank Majority 
Leader Lott for his strong support on this issue and for recognizing 
the impact on northern border states if we did not solve this problem. 
Senator Gorton also played an important role in this successful effort. 
I thank Senator Helms and his staff, who permitted an amendment related 
to section 110 to be part of the State Department authorization bill 
last year, which I think elevated the awareness of this issue and 
contributed to the solution we see today. Senator Biden and his staff 
were also supportive of this effort. And, of course, Senator Grams and 
his leadership were essential for the outcome today.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, this bill accomplishes the important goal 
of eliminating the existing section 110 of the Illegal Immigration 
Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act, IIRIRA. I am an original 
cosponsor of the Senate version of this bill, the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service Data Management Improvement Act of 2000.
  Section 110 would mandate that the Immigration and Naturalization 
Service (INS) establish an automated system to record the entry and 
exit of all aliens. If implemented, such a provision would have 
terrible consequences for States all across our Northern Border. Its 
repeal will help protect America's economy and reinforce our excellent 
relationship with Canada.
  To implement and maintain an automated system for monitoring the 
entry and exit of ``all aliens,'' INS and Customs agents would have to 
stop each vehicle or individual entering or exiting the United States 
at all ports of entry. Canadians, U.S. permanent residents, and many 
others who are not currently required to show documentation of their 
status would likely either have to carry some form of identification or 
fill out paperwork at the points of entry.
  This sort of tracking system would be extraordinarily costly to 
implement along the Northern Border, especially since there is no 
current system or infrastructure to track the departure of citizens and 
others leaving the United States.
  Section 110 would also lead to excessive and costly traffic delays 
for those living and working near the border. These delays would surely 
have a negative impact on the $2.4 billion in goods and services 
shipped annually from Vermont to Canada and would likely reduce the 
$120 million per year that Canadians spend in Vermont.
  This legislation would replace the existing section 110 with a new 
provision that requires the Attorney General to implement an 
``integrated entry and exit data system.'' This system would simply 
integrate the arrival and departure data which already is authorized or 
required to be collected under current law, and which is in electronic 
format within databases held by the Justice and State Departments. The 
INS would not be required to take new steps to collect information from 
those entering and leaving the country, meaning that Canadians will 
have the same ability to enter the United States as they do today.
  This bill will ensure that tourists continue to freely cross the 
border, without additional documentation requirements. This bill will 
also guarantee that more than $1 billion in daily cross-border trade is 
not hindered in any way. Just as importantly, Vermonters and others who 
cross our nation's land borders on a daily basis to work or visit with 
family or friends should be able to continue doing so without 
additional border delays.
  The interconnection between Canada and the United States may be 
demonstrated most clearly by a store in Derby Line, Vermont. Actually, 
only part of the store is located in Derby Line--the other side of it 
is in Rock Island, Quebec. The U.S.-Canadian border runs down the 
middle of the store, and a white stripe is painted there to mark it. 
Would the integrated entry and exit data system called for under 
section 110 have had to monitor the clerks who move from one side of 
the store to the other collecting goods? This is just one of many 
examples that would make the implementation of section 110 a 
destructive folly for Vermont, and I am sure that Senators from other 
States along the Northern Border can tell similar stories about their 
States.
  This is an issue that I have worked on ever since section 110 was 
originally adopted in 1996. In 1997, along with Senator Abraham and 
others, I introduced the Border Improvement and Immigration Act of 
1997. Among other things, that legislation would have (1) specifically 
exempted Canadians from any new documentation or paperwork requirements 
when crossing the border into the United States; (2) required the 
Attorney General to discuss the development of ``reciprocal 
agreements'' with the Secretary of State and the governments of 
contiguous countries to collect the data on visa overstayers; and (3) 
required the Attorney General to increase the number of INS inspectors 
by 300 per year and the number of Customs inspectors by 150 per year 
for the next three years, with at least half of those inspectors being 
assigned to the Northern Border.
  I also worked with Senator Kennedy, Senator Abraham, and other 
Senators to obtain postponements in the implementation date for the 
automated system mandated by section 110. We were successful in those 
attempts, delaying implementation until March 30, 2001. But delays are 
by nature only a temporary solution; in the legislation we vote on 
today, I believe we have found a permanent solution that allows us to 
keep track of the flow of foreign nationals entering and leaving the 
United States without crippling commerce or our important relationship 
with Canada. That is why I am proud to be a cosponsor of this 
legislation, and why I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of it today.
  The Immigration mistakes of 1996: I fought against the adoption of 
section

[[Page S4503]]

110 in 1996, when this Congress passed the IIRIRA. It was wrong at the 
time, it is wrong today, and I am relieved that we are prepared to do 
away with it. But our job of rectifying the wrongs of our 1996 
immigration legislation is far from over; indeed, it has hardly begun. 
I would like to use this occasion to draw my colleagues' attention to 
what I believe our next priorities should be in the immigration area.
  Expedited removal: First, in the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective 
Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a bill ostensibly about terrorism, Congress 
instituted an immigration measure called expedited removal. Under 
expedited removal, low-level INS officers with cursory supervision have 
the authority to summarily remove people who arrive at our border 
without proper documentation, or with facially valid documentation that 
the officer simply suspects is invalid. No review--administrative or 
judicial--is available of the INS officer's decision, which is rendered 
after a so-called secondary inspection interview. Expedited removal was 
widely critized at the time as ignoring the realities of political 
persecution, since people being tortured by their government are quite 
likely to have difficulties obtaining valid travel documents from that 
government. Its adoption was viewed by many--including a majority of 
this body--as an abandonment of our historical commitment to refugees 
and a misplaced reaction to our legitimate fears of terrorism.

  When we debated the IIRIRA later the same year, I offered an 
amendment with Senator DeWine to restrict the use of expedited removal 
to times of immigration emergencies, which would be certified by the 
Attorney General. This more limited authority was all that the 
Administration had requested in the first place, and it was far more in 
line with our international and historical commitments. This amendment 
passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but it was removed in one of 
the most partisan conference committees I have ever witnessed. As a 
result, the extreme version of expedited removal contained in AEDPA 
became law, and was implemented in 1997. Ever since, I have attempted 
to raise consciousness about the problems with expedited removal.
  Last year, I introduced the Refugee Protection Act (S. 1940) with 
Senator Brownback and five other Senators of both parties. The bill is 
modeled closely on the 1996 amendment that passed the Senate, and I was 
optimistic that it too would be supported by a broad coalition of 
Senators. It allows expedited removal only in times of immigration 
emergencies, and it provides due process rights and elemental fairness 
for those arriving at our borders without sacrificing security 
concerns. But even as the Refugee Protection Act has gained additional 
cosponsors, it has been ignored by the Senate leadership. Indeed, the 
bill has not even received a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, 
despite my request.
  Meanwhile, in the little more than three years that expedited removal 
has been in operation, we already have numerous stories of valid asylum 
seekers who were forced to leave our country without the opportunity to 
convince an immigration judge that they faced persecution in their 
native lands. To provide just one example, ``Dem,'' a Kosovar Albanian, 
was summarily removed from the U.S. after the civil war in Kosovo had 
already made the front pages of America's newspapers. During his 
interview with the INS inspector who had unreviewable discretion over 
his fate, he was provided with a Serbian translator who did not speak 
Albanian, rendering the interview a farce. Instead of being embraced as 
a political refugee, he was put on the next plane back to where his 
flight had originated. We only know about his story at all because he 
was dogged enough to make it back to the United States. On this second 
trip, he was found to have a credible fear of persecution and he is 
currently in the midst of the asylum process.
  Perhaps the most distressing part of expedited removal is that there 
is no way for us to know how many deserving refugees have been 
excluded. Because secondary inspection interviews are conducted in 
secret, we typically only learn about mistakes when refugees manage to 
make it back to the United States a second time, like Dem, or when they 
are deported to a third country they passed through on their way to the 
United States. This uncertainty should lead us to be especially wary of 
continuing this failed experiment.

  Unjust deportation: Another injustice in the 1996 legislation that we 
must address is its drastically expanded definition of what makes a 
legal resident deportable. First, the IIRIRA defined the term 
``aggravated felony'' in such a way as to make numerous misdemeanors 
deportable offenses. Then it applied this new standard retroactively, 
so that people who had committed crimes in the past that were so minor 
they did not even serve jail time were now subject to automatic 
deportation--including people who pleaded guilty to those crimes 
without any reason to believe there would be immigration consequences 
for that plea. The effects of this change have been unfair to numerous 
men and women, and their families, who have worked hard for years to 
turn their lives around, and have paid taxes, contributed their labor 
to the American economy, and raised children who are American citizens. 
I applaud the efforts of those in the House who are working to do away 
with retroactivity altogether.
  I have chosen to take a narrower approach to this issue, focusing on 
the effect that this punitive policy has had on decorated war veterans 
who are being deported without any administrative or judicial 
consideration of the equities. I have introduced the Fairness to 
Immigrant Veterans Act, S. 871, which would ensure that veterans of our 
Armed Forces who have committed ``aggravated felonies'' have the 
opportunity to go before an immigration judge and plead their case to 
stay in the United States. It would also give veterans the right to 
federal court review of the immigration judges' decisions, and allow 
them to be released from detention while their claim is pending. If 
this bill becomes law, we will still be able to deport people who have 
committed serious crimes and present a danger to the community, 
regardless of their service record. But we will give veterans every 
opportunity to show that they and their families deserve a second 
chance, a chance they have earned through the sacrifices they made for 
our country.
  Veterans groups have been very supportive of this legislation, with 
the American Legion, AMVETS, Vietnam Veterans of America, and the 
Blinded American Veterans all endorsing the bill. Despite these 
endorsements and my efforts to promote this legislation, however, the 
majority has failed even to hold a hearing on this bill.
  Restoring basic benefits: Unfortunately, the IIRIRA and the AEDPA 
were not the only 1996 laws that distorted our immigration policy and 
harmed immigrants. The welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility 
and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, added to that year's 
anti-immigration chorus, unreasonably restricting the eligibility of 
legal immigrants for social safety net provisions. It barred many legal 
immigrants from receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food 
stamps, and Medicaid coverage, even as Congress sought to ensure that 
Medicaid be preserved for those who were leaving welfare. It has 
prevented the children of legal immigrants from eligibility under the 
new Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Under this statute, if 
legal immigrants (or their children) become sick, or lose their job, 
they are simply out of luck. These punitive restrictions were aimed not 
at illegal immigrants--who already were ineligible for most benefits--
but at legal immigrants, people who were invited to come here and work, 
people who paid taxes and contributed to our society in myriad ways.

  Senators Moynihan and Graham have introduced S. 792, the Fairness for 
Legal Immigrants Act, to rectify this injustice, and I am a proud 
cosponsor of their bill. Among other things, the bill would:
  Permit States to cover all eligible legal immigrant pregnant women 
and children under Medicaid immediately;
  Permit states to cover all legal immigrant children under CHIP;
  Restore SSI eligibility for legal immigrants who arrived here before 
August 1996 and who are elderly and poor but not disabled by SSI 
standards;

[[Page S4504]]

  Restore SSI eligibility for legal immigrants who arrived here after 
August 1996 and become disabled after entering the country; and
  Restore food stamp eligibility for all pre-August 1996 legal 
immigrants.
  This is a vital bill, but the majority has declined even to hold a 
hearing on it since it was introduced in April 1999. It is difficult to 
tell whether this inaction results from indifference to the plight of 
these legal immigrants, or from a belief on the majority's part that 
immigrants come here to take advantage of the social safety net that 
our country offers. If it is the latter, I would recommend to my 
colleagues to remarks made by former Housing and Urban Development 
Secretary and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Jack Kemp at a 
recent press conference designed to highlight the need for Congress to 
take action on a variety of immigration legislation. Mr. Kemp said that 
immigrants do not come to the United States because of its welfare 
system--they come here because they want to make a better life for 
themselves through hard work. I would add, and I'm sure that Jack Kemp 
would agree, that they often come here to experience political freedom 
they cannot obtain in their own countries.
  Detention: The IIRIRA made the detention of asylum seekers who arrive 
without proper documents mandatory until they establish a credible fear 
of persecution. It allowed the INS no discretion, even where asylum 
applicants had relatives willing to take them in and spare the 
government the cost of detaining them, or even where the asylum 
applicants were children. It took this step even though the INS had 
already issued regulations that prevented asylum applicants from 
working while their applications were pending--a step that had 
drastically reduced the filing of frivolous applications.
  This detention mandate has created serious strains for the INS and 
has led to often inhumane conditions for people who are fleeing 
persecution. For example, in October 1998, the Miami Herald reported 
that the INS--under the pressures created by the 1996 law--
had Warehoused some of its detainees to a local jail in the Florida 
Panhandle. The jailers there constructed an ``electric blanket'' that 
it ``placed over detainees, who [were] then subjected to intense 
electric shocks.'' These asylum seekers were forced to remain under the 
blanket ``for hours, worried about repeated shocks, and when refused 
bathroom privileges, they often soiled themselves. . . . They [also] 
endured broken bones, racial slurs, and attacks with Mace and pepper 
spray.''

  The Refugee Protection Act, which I talked about earlier, also 
addresses the detention issue. It clarifies that the Attorney General 
is not obligated to detain asylum seekers while their claims are being 
procesed--the bill preserves the Attorney General's ability to do so, 
but does not encourage detention. Asylum seekers are not criminals and 
they do not deserve to be imprisoned or detained without cause. 
Detention may be appropriate in rare cases, but it should be used 
sparingly. Detention is also extraordinarily costly for the taxpayers; 
indeed, the Department of Justice has projected that by the year 2001 
it will need bed space for 24,000 INS detainees. The current policy is 
a humanitarian and fiscal failure, and we must reform it.
  Conclusion: Although I am proud of the legislation we pass today, we 
have equally necessary and more challenging tasks ahead of us if we 
truly want to address the damage done by the laws passed in 1996. I 
urge my colleagues to focus on these issues and to work during the time 
we have remaining in this Congress to create sensible immigration laws. 
Let us not leave it to another Congress to fix the mistakes the 
majority made 4 years ago.
  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the bill be 
read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the 
table, and that any statements relating to the bill be printed in the 
Record.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The bill (H.R. 4489) was read the third time and passed.

                          ____________________





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