[Congressional Record: November 6, 2001 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of
January 3, 2001, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Stearns) is recognized
during morning hour debates for 5 minutes.
Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Speaker, President Bush signed into law the
antiterrorism bill. This new law contains many provisions that will
increase the ability of law enforcement, intelligence and other
government agencies to combat terrorism. While this legislation is an
important critical piece, although some may say controversial, in
eradicating terrorism and ensuring the safety and prosperity of the
American way of life to continue, the war, my colleagues, cannot be won
without the key component of securing our borders from those who wish
to cause us harm.
The values and ideals of this Nation are built on the contribution
and sacrifices of immigrants who journeyed across the oceans for a
better way of life that could only be found in this land. As such,
America has and always will serve as a beacon of hope for those in
oppressed other lands. It is, after all, the diverse nature of our
people that has made America such a great country.
However, those who violate our Nation's immigration laws do more harm
than good in furthering our country's values. And it is those people we
must ensure that do not enter our country. Take, for example, what
happened nearly 2 years ago when a lone U.S. Customs agent working at a
remote border post in Northwest Washington foiled a terrorist attack on
the Los Angeles Airport. An alert Customs Service inspector stopped and
arrested Ahmed Ressam, a bin-Laden associate, in December of 1999 with
a car load of bomb-making material before he was allowed to enter into
Washington State from Canada. Unfortunately, our luck ran out with the
tragic events of September 11.
It now appears that some of the terrorists involved in September 11
may have entered the U.S. from Canada, much as Ahmed Ressam attempted
when he was arrested.
According to the INS records, 13 of the 19 hijackers entered the U.S.
with valid visas. Three of the 13 remained in the country after their
visas had expired. Two were expected to have entered on foreign student
visas and the INS has no information on the six remaining hijackers. As
such, we can keep enacting legislation and, of course, spend more
money; but efforts to counter terrorism will be futile unless we
establish effective controls to secure our boarders and points of
Each year there are more than 300 million border crossings in the
United States. These are just the legal crossings that are recorded.
While there are 9,000 border control agents working to keep America
secure on the U.S.-Mexican border, there are less than 500 agents
tasked with securing our 4,000-mile border with Canada.
To make matters even worse, out of the 128 ports on the northern
border, only 24 of them are open around the clock. The remaining are
not even manned, thereby allowing anyone with good or evil intentions
to enter into the United States without even so much as an inspection,
not to mention even a question or a record of their entry.
A recent report by the nonprofit organization, the Center on
Immigration Studies, indicates that there are more than 8 million
people now living in the U.S. illegally. About 40 to 50 percent of
these violators are people who entered the United States legally, but
did not leave with the expiration of their visas.
As it now stands, our immigration system needs increased and tighter
controls. Currently our Nation has an unmonitored, nonimmigrant visa
system in which 7.1 million tourists, business visitors, foreign
students, and temporary workers arrive. To date, the INS does not have
a reliable tracking system to determine how many of these visitors left
the country when their visas expired.
Furthermore, among the 7.1 million nonimmigrants, 500,000 foreign
nationals enter the United States on foreign student visas. Hani
Hanjour, the person who was believed to have piloted the American
Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon is believed to have entered the
country with a foreign student visa but never actually attended
Mr. Speaker, our unsecure borders, along with inadequate record-
keeping, have contributed to our inability to track terrorism in our
country, or to prevent them from entering in the first place. I am
encouraged by legislation being drafted in the Senate which aims to
strengthen our border security in the fight to counter terrorism.
Additionally, I am pleased that President Bush announced that the White
House wants to tighten immigration laws and requirements for student
visas to deter would-be terrorists from entering this country.
I urge my colleagues to make tightening our immigration laws and
securing our borders a top priority in the war against terrorism.
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