[Congressional Record: October 3, 2001 (Extensions)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
TRACKING FOREIGN VISITORS AND STUDENTS IS A PROTECTION FOR ALL
HON. DOUG BEREUTER
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, October 3, 2001
Mr. BEREUTER. Mr. Speaker, this Member wishes to commend to his
colleagues the October 1, 2001, and the October 2, 2001, editorials
from the Omaha World-Herald entitled ``Loosey-Goosey Borders'' and
``Loosey-Goosey Borders: II.'' For many years, this Member has argued
that it is critical to U.S. security interests to have our government
energetically reform and effectively implement visa control for foreign
nationals and to screen those foreign nationals who are seeking to be
accepted as legitimate refugees or immigrants. As the October 1st
editorial notes, ``U.S. law enforcement agencies should know who is
entering the country and where they are supposed to be.'' Sadly, it
took the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, for the
American public to fully understand why that is the case.
[From the Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 1, 2001]
One of the greatest challenges facing the United States now
is how to maintain an open, free society while protecting the
country from terrorists who exploit that freedom. A key
element of the question is the millions of foreigners who
enter the United States each year, some of whom have had
terror, not touring, on their mind.
In 1998, about 30 million people entered the country on
visitors' visas, a form that is relatively easy to obtain,
sometimes after only a few routine questions. Then this is
what happens: nothing. Once these visitors arrive, the U.S.
government washes its hands of them. They are never checked
on unless they commit a felony of some kind. In practice,
they are free go home or disappear into American life, as
Many of them never leave. One estimate suggests that half
of the 7 million illegal aliens in this country didn't enter
illegally but simply overstayed their visas. And the
Immigration and Naturalization Service has no idea who they
are, where they could be or what they might be up to.
Officials say that 16 of the 19 hijacker-terrorists entered
the United States on temporary visas as students, workers or
U.S. borders aren't simply porous, said Mark Krikorian,
director of the Center for Immigration studies in Washington;
they are, to all intents and purposes, wide open. That is
crazy. An open border is an open invitation to terrorism.
First, the painfully obvious. The INS should keep track of
all who visit the United States, where they are and when they
are required to leave. The act of not leaving should trigger
a reaction from INS enforcement officers--perhaps a letter of
inquiry, perhaps arrest, depending on the potential threat.
Keeping track of visitors will take a computer system, a
reform mandated by Congress in 1996 but abandoned when border
states objected to the delays and loss of business. It will
mean time lost and, in all likelihood, traffic jams,
particularly at busy U.S.-Mexican and U.S.-Canadian borders.
But it is vital to check foreign visitors both in and out.
Not to do so invites what has happened.
Protecting the United States may require that the embassy
and consulate staffs where visas are issued be better trained
or enlarged. They are the first line of defense against
attack, and they should act positively, checking backgrounds
and criminal records of would-be tourists, particularly if
the applicant is from a problematic country such as Iran.
The changes needed might also involve modifications in the
visa waiver program, by which nationals in 29 friendly
countries such as Great Britain and Norway are admitted to
this country without the formality of a visa. At the very
least, these visitors, too, should be checked in and out via
computer. Because the criminal world so highly values stolen
or forged passports from waiver countries, more stringent
security provisions might be needed.
Foreign visitors shouldn't look at increased scrutiny or
security as an accusation or violation of rights. They are,
after all, guests, here on sufferance and required to obey
the law. Few other countries have been as wide open as the
United States in the past, and even fewer are likely to be in
U.S. law enforcement agencies should know who is entering
the country and where they are supposed to be. These
organizations can then judge potential risks and problems and
handle them as the law allows. When the INS keeps closer
track of visitors, it isn't intended to harass but to
identify, not to accuse but to protect. It's not xenophobia.
And self-defense, within the context of freedom, has
suddenly become of vital importance.
[From the Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 2, 2001]
Loosey-Goosey Borders: II
As the United States moves to take control of its borders
and keep track of foreign nationals entering the country, it
is important to change the way student visas are handled,
About half a million foreign students enter the country
every year, some headed for colleges or universities, some
for vocational or language schools. The vast majority of them
actually attend school.
Some, however, do not, and disappear into the population.
In that category was one Hani Hanjour, who was supposed to
study English at Holy Names College in Oakland, Calif. Ten
months after he skipped out on his student visa, he and
companions hijacked the jet that crashed into the Pentagon.
Hard as it might be to understand, schools are not required
to notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service if
foreign students fail to appear or drop out. Five years ago,
Congress ordered the INS to begin tracking foreign visitors.
That was to include students starting in 2003. But in August,
a bill was introduced to end the system before it began.
The system would have issued cards with magnetic strips to
students. The strips, containing personal information, would
have to be swiped through a reader when the student entered
the country and the cards would have to be shown to school
authorities when they arrived on campus.
Then, campus officials would be required to report changes
of address and other information concerning international
More than a hundred schools spoke out against the INS plan,
as did NAFSA/Association of International Educators, a
lobbying group. Many university officials worried that any
identification system would discourage international
Perhaps it would, but it shouldn't. It is not unreasonable
and it should not be intimidating to require foreign students
not only to be what they claim--students--but to allow the
immigration service to keep track of their whereabouts.
The education lobbying group has seen the light and changed
its position. Last month, after the attacks on New York City
and Washington, D.C., its spokesman said, ``The time for
debate on this matter is over, and the time to devise a
considered response to terrorism has arrived.''
That is a commendable turn-around, one that college and
university leaders would do well to emulate. The idea is not
to punish foreign students or inconvenience their schools but
to protect Americans from terrorists who might enter the
country under false pretenses.
The system needs to be put in place yesterday.
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