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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: November 1, 2001 (Senate)]
[Page S11363-S11389]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr01no01-92]                         
 
          STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

..............................................

      By Mr. KENNEDY (for himself, Mr. Brownback, Ms. Cantwell, Ms. 
        Collins, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Hagel, Mr. Reid, and Mr. Ensign):
  S. 1618. A bill to enhance the border security of the United States, 
and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, it is a privilege to join Senators 
Brownback, Cantwell, Collins, Edwards, Hagel, Reid, and Ensign in 
introducing legislation to strengthen the security of our borders and 
enhance our ability to deter potential terrorists. There is an urgent 
need to improve intelligence and technology capabilities, enhance the 
ability to screen individuals before they arrive at our borders, and 
improve the monitoring of foreign nationals already within the United 
States.
  In strengthening the security of our borders, we must also safeguard 
the unobstructed entry of the more than 31 million persons who enter 
the U.S. legally each year as visitors, students, and temporary 
workers. Many of them cross the Canadian and Mexican borders to conduct 
daily business or visit close family members.
  We must also live up to our history and heritage as a Nation of 
immigrants. Immigration is essential to who we are as Americans. 
Continued immigration is part of our national well-being, our identity 
as a Nation, and our strength in today's world. In defending the 
Nation, we are also defending the fundamental constitutional principles 
that have made America strong in the past and will make us even 
stronger in the future.
  Our action must strike a careful balance between protecting civil 
liberties and providing the means for law enforcement to identify, 
apprehend and detain potential terrorist. It makes no sense to enact 
reforms that severely limit immigration into the United States. 
``Fortress America,'' even if it could be achieved, is an inadequate 
and ineffective response to the terrorist threat.
  A major goal of this legislation is to improve coordination and 
information-sharing by the Department of State, the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service, and law enforcement and intelligence agencies. 
It will require the Department of State and the INS to work with the 
Office of Homeland Security and the recently formed Foreign Terrorist 
Tracking Task Force to submit and implement a plan to improve their 
access to critical security information. It will give those responsible 
for screening visa applicants and persons entering the U.S. the tools 
they need to make informed decisions.
  We must provide enforcement personnel at our ports of entry with 
greater resources and technology. These men and women are a primary 
defense in the battle against terrorism. This legislation will see that 
they receive adequate pay, can hire necessary support staff, and are 
well-trained to identify individuals who pose a security threat.
  The anti-terrorism bill recently passed by the Senate addressed the 
need for machine-readable passports, but it did not focus on machine-
readable visas, a necessary part of our efforts to improve border 
security. This legislation allows the Department of State to raise fees 
through the use of machine-readable visas and use the funds collected 
from those fees to improve technology at our ports of entry.
  We must do more to improve our ability to screen individuals along 
our entire North American perimeter. This legislation directs the 
Department of State and the INS to work with the Office of Homeland 
Security and the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force to strengthen 
our ability to screen individuals at the Perimeter before they reach 
our continent. We can work with Canada and Mexico to coordinate these 
efforts.
  We must also strengthen our ability to monitor foreign nationals in 
the United States. In 1996, Congress enacted legislation mandating the 
development of an automated entry/exit control system to record the 
entry of every non-citizen arriving in the U.S., and to match it with 
the record of departure. Although technology is currently available for 
such a system, it has not been implemented because of the high costs 
involved. Our legislation builds on the anti-terrorism bill and 
provides greater direction to the INS for implementing the entry/exit 
system.

  We must improve the ability of foreign service officers to detect and 
intercept potential terrorists before they arrive in the U.S. Most 
foreign nationals who travel here must apply for visas at American 
consulates overseas. Traditionally, consular officers have focused on 
interviewing applicants to determine whether they are likely to violate 
their visa status. Although this review is important, consular officers 
must also be trained specifically to screen for security threats.
  We must require all airlines to electronically transmit passenger 
lists to destination airports in the United States, so that once the 
planes have landed, law enforcement authorities can intercept 
passengers who are on federal lookout lists. United States airlines 
already do this, but some foreign airlines do not. Our legislation 
requires all airlines to transmit passenger manifest information prior 
to the arrival of flight in the U.S.
  In 1996, Congress established a program to collect information on 
non-immigrant foreign students and participants in exchange programs. 
Although a pilot phase of this program ended in 1999, a permanent 
system has not yet been implemented. Congress passed provisions in the 
anti-terrorism bill for the quick and effective implementation of this 
system by 2003, but gaps still exist. This legislation will increase 
the data collected by the monitoring to include the date of entry, the 
port of entry, the date of school enrollment, and the date the student 
leaves the school. It requires the Department of State and INS to 
monitor students who have been given visas, and to notify schools of 
their entry. It also requires a school to notify the INS if a student 
does not actually report to the school. If institutions fail to comply 
with these and other requirements, they should lose their ability to 
admit foreign students.
  INS regulations provide for regular reviews of over 26,000 
educational institutions that are authorized to enroll foreign 
students. However, inspections have been sporadic in recent years. This 
legislation will require INS to monitor institutions on a regular 
basis.
  As we work to implement stronger tracking systems, we must also 
remember that the vast majority of foreign visitors, students, and 
workers who overstay their visas are not criminals or terrorists. It 
would be wrong and unfair, without additional information, to 
stigmatize them.
  This legislation will also help restrict visas to foreign nationals 
from countries that the Department of State has determined are sponsors 
of terrorism. It precludes visas to individuals from countries that 
sponsor terrorism, unless specific steps are taken to ensure the person 
is not a security threat.
  We must be able to retain highly skilled immigration inspectors. Our 
legislation will provide incentives to immigration inspectors by 
providing

[[Page S11373]]

them with the same benefits as other law enforcement personnel.
  We must fully implement the use of biometric border crossing cards 
and allow sufficient time for individuals to obtain these cards. Many 
of these cards are already in use, but INS does not have the necessary 
equipment to read the cards. This legislation appropriates needed funds 
to enable the INS to purchase the machines, and it extends the deadline 
for individuals crossing the border to acquire the cards.
  When planes land at our airports, inspectors are under significant 
time constraints to clear the planes and ensure the safety of all 
departing passengers. Our legislation removes the existing 45 minute 
deadline, providing inspectors with adequate time to clear and secure 
aircraft.
  The Senate took significant steps last week to improve immigration 
security by passing the anti-terrorism bill, but further action is 
needed. This legislation will strengthen the security of our borders 
and enhance our ability to prevent future terrorist attacks, while also 
reaffirming our tradition as a Nation of immigrants. I strongly urge my 
colleagues to support it.
  Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, the terrorist attacks of September 11th 
have unsettled the public's confidence in our Nation's security and 
have raised concerns about whether our institutions are up to the task 
of intercepting and thwarting would-be terrorists. Given that the 
persons responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the 
Pentagon came from abroad, our citizens understandably ask how these 
people entered the United States and what can be done to prevent their 
kind from doing so again. Clearly, our immigration laws and policies 
are instrumental to the war on terrorism. While the battle may be waged 
on several fronts, for the man or woman on the street, immigration is 
in many ways the front line of our defense.
  The immigration provisions in the anti-terrorist bill passed by this 
body last week, the USA Patriot Act of 2001, represent an excellent 
first step toward improving our border security, but we must not stop 
there. Our Nation receives millions of visitors each year, foreign 
nationals who come to the United States to visit family, to do 
business, to tour our sites, to study and learn. Most of these people 
enter lawfully and mean well; they are good for our economy and are 
potential ambassadors of good will to their home countries. However, 
there is a small minority who intend us harm, and we must take 
intelligent measures to keep these people out.
  For that reason, I am pleased to introduce today, along with my 
colleagues Senator Kennedy, Senator Collins, Senator Cantwell, Senator 
Hagel, Senator Edwards, Senator Ensign, and Senator Reid, legislation 
that looks specifically toward strengthening our borders and better 
equipping the agencies that protect them. The Enhanced Border Security 
Act of 2001 represents an earnest, thoughtful, and bipartisan effort to 
refine our immigration laws and institutions to better combat the evil 
that threatens our Nation.
  The legislation recognizes that the war on terrorism is, in large 
part, a war of information. To be successful, we must improve our 
ability to collect, compile, and utilize information critical to our 
safety and national security. This bill provides that the agencies 
tasked with screening visa applicants and applicants for admission, 
namely the Department of State and the Immigration and Naturalization 
Service, must be provided with law enforcement and intelligence 
information that will enable these agencies to identify alien 
terrorists. By directing better coordination and access, this 
legislation will bring together the agencies that have the information 
and those that need it. With input from the Office of Homeland Security 
and the President's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, this bill 
will make prompt and effective information-sharing between these 
agencies a reality.
  In complement to last week's anti-terrorist act, this legislation 
provides for necessary improvements in the technologies used by the 
State Department and the Service. It provides funding for the State 
Department to better interface with foreign intelligence information 
and to better staff its infrastructure. It also provides the Service 
with guidance on the implementation of the Integrated Entry and Exit 
Data System, pointing the Service to such tools as biometric 
identifiers in immigration documents, machine readable visas and 
passports, and arrival-departure and security databases. In fact, this 
legislation expressly enables the Service to take immediate advantage 
of biometric technology by authorizing the funding to purchase 
equipment for reading border-crossing cards that are already available 
for use.

  To the degree that we can reasonably and realistically do so, we 
should attempt to intercept terrorists before they reach our borders. 
Accordingly, we must consider security measures not only at domestic 
ports of entry but also at foreign ports of departure. To that end, 
this legislation directs the State Department and the Service, in 
consultation with Office of Homeland Security, to examine, expand, and 
enhance screening procedures to take place outside the United States, 
as preinspection and preclearance. It also requires international air 
carriers to transmit, in advance of their arrival, passenger manifests 
for review by the Service. Further, it eliminates the 45-minute 
statutory limit on airport inspections, which many feel compromises the 
Service's ability to screen arriving flights properly. Finally, since 
we should ultimately look to expand our security perimeter to include 
Canada and Mexico, this bill requires these agencies to work with our 
neighbors to create a collaborative North American Security Perimeter.
  While this legislation mandates certain technological improvements, 
it does not ignore the human element in the security equation. It 
provides special training to border patrol agents, inspectors, and 
foreign service officers to better identify terrorists and security 
threats to the United States. Moreover, to help the Service retain its 
most experienced people on the borders, this bill provides the Service 
with increased flexibility in pay, certain benefit incentives, and the 
ability to hire necessary support staff.
  Finally, this legislation considers certain classes of aliens that 
raise security concerns for our country: nationals from states that 
sponsor terrorism and foreign students. With respect to the former, 
this bill expressly prohibits the State Department from issuing a 
nonimmigrant visa to any alien from a country that sponsors terrorism 
until it has been determined that the alien does not pose a threat to 
the safety or national security of the United States. With respect to 
the latter, this legislation would fill data and reporting gaps in our 
foreign student programs by requiring the Service to electronically 
monitor the student at every stage in the student visa process. It 
would also require the educational institution to report a foreign 
student's failure to enroll and the Service to monitor schools' 
compliance with this reporting requirement.
  While we must be careful not to compromise our values or our economy, 
we must take intelligent, immediate steps to enhance the security of 
our borders. This legislation, consonant with both the USA Patriot Act 
and President Bush's recent directive on immigration, would implement 
many changes that are vital to our war on terrorism. I therefore urge 
my colleagues to support it.
  Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President I rise today for two purposes. First, I 
commend my colleague, Senator Kennedy, for his tireless work on 
immigration issues and to offer my support for a bill he and Senator 
Brownback are introducing today, the Enhanced Border Security Act of 
2001. Also, I want to discuss legislation I will be introducing that 
builds upon the visa technology standards provisions of the USA Patriot 
Act of 2001 and fits within the construct of what Senators Kennedy and 
Brownback seek to accomplish. Several of the provisions I have proposed 
have already been incorporated by Senators Kennedy and Brownback, and I 
will continue to work with them and my other colleagues to move other 
provisions of my bill.
  As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I have been honored to work 
closely with Senator Kennedy to find ways to better protect our borders 
and provide necessary support to the men

[[Page S11374]]

and women who work for the State Department, the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Agency.
  I, along with many of my colleagues, am currently pressing for 
funding to triple the number of Immigration and Naturalization Service 
and U.S. personnel on our northern border and improve border 
technology, the authorization for which was included in the USA Patriot 
Act. In the past, a severe lack of resources at our northern border has 
compromised the ability of border control officials to execute their 
duties. I am pleased that Congress made the tripling of these resources 
a priority for national security, and I will continue to fight for full 
funding of this measure. Senators Kennedy and Brownback have also 
addressed these needs by improving INS pay standards, providing 
additional training for Border Patrol and Customs agents, and 
increasing information technology funding.
  Let me commend Senators Kennedy and Brownback on the bill they are 
introducing today. It reflects a thoughtful response to the current 
situation at our borders, and I am pleased to be an original cosponsor. 
I am aware that others have proposals to address border issues as well, 
and I look forward to working with them.
  The Enhanced Border Security Act of 2001 addresses several critical 
issues. In hearings in recent weeks before the Immigration Subcommittee 
and the Technology and, Terrorism Subcommittee, we heard repeated calls 
for better sharing of law enforcement and intelligence information as 
it relates to admitting aliens into the United States. The bill 
addresses this problem by mandating INS and Department of State access 
to relevant FBI information within one year. I am pleased that the 
authors of this bill have included provisions to protect the privacy 
and security of this information, and require limitations on the use 
and repeated dissemination of the information.
  Sharing U.S. law enforcement and intelligence information with the 
State Department and INS is important, but it is also critical to build 
upon our relationships with Canada and Mexico. We share a mutual 
interest in protecting our respective borders. The U.S., Canada and 
Mexico must also improve the sharing of information by our law 
enforcement and intelligence communities. We need to develop a 
perimeter national security program with our partners to our north and 
south, and the Enhanced Border Security Act does just that.
  The Enhanced Border Security Act requires airlines to provide 
passenger manifests to the INS and Customs in advance of a flight's 
arrival. This will be one more source of data, that will help INS 
screen for those who should not be allowed to enter. It also tightens 
controls on student visas, and restricts the issuance of visas to 
aliens who are citizens of countries that sponsor terrorism. This is a 
thoughtful bill and I urge my colleagues' support.
  Last week with the enactment of the USA Patriot Act of 2001, the 
Federal Government committed to developing a visa technology standard 
that would facilitate the sharing of information related to the 
admissibility of aliens into the United States. I proposed this 
language recognizing that for many years, the U.S. law enforcement and 
intelligence communities have maintained numerous, but separate, non-
interoperable databases. These databases are not easily or readily 
accessible to front-line Federal agents responsible for making the 
critical decisions of whether to issue a visa or to admit an alien into 
the United States.
  To build on and fulfill the goals of establishing this standard, my 
bill will do three things. First, it will require technology be 
implemented to track the initial entry and exit of aliens traveling on 
a U.S. visa. We know now that several of the terrorists who attacked 
America on September 11 were traveling on expired visas. We have had 
the law in place for several years now, but due to concerns about 
maintaining the flow of trade and tourism across our borders, concerns 
I share, the provisions of Section 110 have not been fully implemented. 
Technology will address those concerns, allowing electronic recordation 
and verification of entry and exit data in an instant.
  Second, I believe it is necessary to require the Departments of State 
and Justice to work with the Office of Homeland Security to build a 
cohesive electronic data sharing system. The system must incorporate 
interoperability and compatibility within and between the databases of 
the various agencies that maintain information relevant to determining 
whether a visa should be issued or whether an alien should be admitted 
into the United States. My legislation will require interoperable real-
time sharing of law enforcement and intelligence information relevant 
to the issuance of a visa or an alien's admissibility to the U.S. The 
provision will require that information is made available, although 
with the appropriate safeguards for privacy and the protection of 
intelligence sources, to the front line government agents making the 
decisions to issue visas or to admit visa holding aliens to the United 
States. I am pleased that Senators Kennedy and Brownback have adopted 
these provisions into their legislation.
  Finally, building on the provisions of the Kennedy-Brownback bill for 
a Perimeter National Security Program, and on the technology standard 
required under the USA Patriot Act, my legislation will require the 
Department of State and the Attorney General to study and report to 
Congress within 90 days on how best to facilitate sharing of 
information that may be relevant to determining whether to issue a U.S. 
visa. Our borders are only as secure as the borders of those countries 
with whom we have agreements that visas are not required. We need to 
build on our relationships with these international partners to secure 
our respective borders through better information sharing.
  Keeping terrorists out of the U.S. in the first place will reduce the 
risks of terrorism within the U.S. in the future. Aliens known to be 
affiliated with terrorists have been admitted to the U.S. on valid 
visas simply because one agency in government did not share important 
information with another department in a timely fashion. We must make 
sure that this does not happen again.
  Until now, we had hoped that agencies would voluntarily share this 
information on a real-time and regular basis. This has not happened, 
and although I know that the events of September 11 have led to serious 
rethinking of our information-sharing processes and procedures, I think 
it is time to mandate the sharing of fundamental information.
  Advancements in technology have provided us with additional tools to 
verify the identify of individuals entering our country without 
impairing the flow of legitimate trade, tourism, workers and students. 
It is time we put these tools to use.
  Improving our national security is vitally important, but I will not 
support measures that compromise America's civil liberties. Both the 
bill being introduced today and the bill I will be introducing include 
several safeguards to protect individuals' rights to privacy. The bills 
provide that where databases are created or shared, there must be 
protection of privacy and adequate security measures in place, 
limitations on the use and re-dissemination of information, and 
mechanisms for removing obsolete or erroneous information. Even in 
times of urgent action, we must protect the freedoms that make our 
country great.
                                 ______
                                 



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