[Congressional Record: November 30, 2001 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
By Mr. KENNEDY (for himself, Mr. Brownback, Mrs. Feinstein, Mr.
Kyl, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Hatch, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Helms, Mr. Durbin,
Mr. Thurmond, Mr. Conrad, Mr. Bond, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sessions,
Mr. DeWine, and Mrs. Hutchison):
S. 1749. 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, I am honored to join Senator Brownback,
Senator Feinstein, Senator Kyl, Senator Leahy, Senator Hatch, and other
colleagues in introducing legislation to strengthen the security of our
improve our ability to screen foreign nationals, and enhance our
ability to deter potential terrorists. Senator Brownback and I have
worked closely with Senator Feinstein and Senator Kyl over the last
month to develop a broad and effective response to the national
security challenges we face. The need is urgent to improve our
intelligence and technology capabilities, strengthen training programs
for border officials and foreign service officers, and improve the
monitoring of foreign nationals already in the United States.
In strengthening security at 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 others cross our borders from Canada and Mexico to conduct daily
business or visit close family members.
We also must live up to our history and heritage as a nation of
immigrants. Continued immigration is part of our national well-being,
our identity as a Nation, and our strength in today's world. In
defending America, 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 terrorists. 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.
Enforcement personnel at our ports of entry are a key part of the
battle against terrorism, and we must provide them with greater
resources, training, and technology. These men and women have a
significant role in the battle against terrorism. This legislation will
ensure that they receive adequate pay, can hire necessary personnel,
are well-trained to identify individuals who pose a security threat,
have access to important intelligence information, and have the
technologies they need to enhance border security and facilitate cross-
The Immigration and Naturalization Service must be able to retain
highly skilled immigration inspectors. Our legislation provides
incentives to immigration inspectors by providing them with the same
benefits as other law enforcement personnel.
Expanding the use of biometric technology is critical to securing our
borders. This legislation authorizes the funding needed to bring our
ports of entry into the biometric age and equip them with biometric
data readers and scanners.
We must expand the use of biometric border crossing cards. The time
frame previously allowed for individuals to obtain these cards was not
sufficient. This legislation extends the deadline for individuals
crossing the border to acquire the biometric cards.
The USA Patriot Act addressed the need for machine-readable
passports, but it did not focus on the need for machine-readable visas
issued by the United States. This legislation enables the Department of
State to raise fees through the use of machine-readable visas and use
the funds collected from these fees to improve technology at our ports
Our efforts to improve border security must also include enhanced
coordination and information-sharing by the Department of State, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service, and law enforcement and
intelligence agencies. This legislation will require the President to
submit and implement a plan to improve access to critical security
information. It will create an electronic data system to give those
responsible for screening visa applicants and persons entering the U.S.
the tools they need to make informed decisions. It also provides for a
temporary system until the President's plan is fully implemented.
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 the technology is currently available
for such a system, it has not been put in place 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
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 concentrated
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
Terrorist lookout committees will be established in every U.S.
consular mission abroad in order to focus the attention of our consular
officers on specific threats and provide essential critical national
security information to those responsible for issuing visas and
updating the lookout database.
This legislation will help restrict visas to foreign nationals from
countries that the Department of State has determined are sponsors of
terrorism. It prohibits issuing visas to individuals from countries
that sponsor terrorism, unless the Secretary of State has determined
that the person is not a security threat.
The current Visa Waiver Program, which allows individuals from
participating countries to enter the U.S. for a limited period without
visas, strengthens relations between the United States and those
countries, and encourages economic growth around the world. Given it's
importance, we must safeguard its continued use, while also ensuring
that a country's designation as a participant in the program does not
undermine U.S. law enforcement and security. This legislation will only
allow a country to be designated as a visa waiver participant, or
continue to be designated, if the Attorney General and Secretary of
State determine that the country reports instances of passport theft to
the U.S. government in a timely manner.
We must do more to improve our ability to screen individuals along
our entire North American perimeter. This legislation directs the
Department of State, the Department of Transportation, the Department
of Justice and the INS to work with the Office of Homeland Security to
screen individuals at the perimeter before they reach our continent,
and to work with Canada and Mexico to coordinate these efforts.
We must require all airlines to electronically transmit passenger
lists to destination airports in the United States, so that once 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
and all other vessels to transmit passenger manifest information prior
to their arrival in the United States.
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, and provides inspectors with adequate time to clear and
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 enacted provisions in the
recent 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 program 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.
INS regulations provide for regular reviews of over 26,000
educational institutions 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. If institutions fail to comply
with these and other requirements, they can lose their ability to admit
foreign students. In addition, this legislation provides for an interim
system until the program established by the 1996 law is implemented.
As we work to achieve 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
The USA Patriot Act was an important part of the effort to improve
immigration security, but further action is needed. This legislation is
a needed bipartisan effort to 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 urge my
colleagues to support it.
Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, the terrorist attacks of September 11
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 earlier
this month, 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 foreign nationals each year, persons
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 us well. They are our relatives, our friends, and our business
partners. They are good for our economy and, as witnesses to our
democracy and our way of life, become our ambassadors of good will to
their home countries.
However, the unfortunate reality is that a fraction of these people
mean 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 Kyl, Senator Feinstein,
Senator Hatch, Senator Leahy, and others, legislation that looks
specifically toward strengthening our borders and better equipping the
agencies that protect them. The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry
Reform 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.
This 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 requires that the agencies
tasked with screening visa applicants and applicants for admission,
namely the Department of State and the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, be provided with the necessary 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, this bill will make prompt and effective information-sharing
between these agencies a reality.
In complement to the USA PATRIOT 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.
To the degree that we can 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, such as
preinspection and preclearance. It also requires international air
carriers to transmit passenger manifests for pre-arrival 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. This
bill requires that ``terrorist lookout committees'' be instituted at
each consular post and that consular officers be given special training
for identifying would-be terrorists. It also provides special training
to border patrol agents, inspectors, and foreign service officers to
better identify terrorists and security threats to the Unites 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
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 every stage in the student visa process. It would also require
the school 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 would implement many changes that are
vital to our war on terrorism. I therefore urge my colleagues to
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I am pleased to join Senators Kennedy,
Brownback, and Kyl in introducing the Enhanced Border Security and Visa
Entry Reform Act of 2001. We submit this legislation with 16 sponsors.
This legislation represents a consensus, drawing upon the strengths
of both the Visa entry Reform Act of 2001, which I introduced with my
colleague from Arizona, Senator Kyl, and the Enhanced border Security
Act of 2001, which Senators Kennedy and Brownback introduced.
I believe the legislation we are introducing today will garner
widespread support from our colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
September 11 clearly pointed out the shortcomings of the immigration
and visa system. For example: All 19 terrorist hijackers entered the
U.S. legally with valid visas. Three of the hijackers had remained in
the U.S. after their visas had expired. One entered on a foreign
student visa. Another, Mohammed Atta had filed an application to change
status to M-1, which was granted in July. However, Mr. Atta sought
admission and was admitted to the United States based on his then
current B-1 visitor visa.
Most people don't realize how many people come into our country; how
little we know about them; and whether they leave when required.
Consider the following: The Visa Waiver Program: 23 million people
from 29 different countries; no visas; little scrutiny; no knowledge
where they go in the U.S. or whether they leave once their visas
expire. The INS estimates that over 100,000 blank passports have been
stolen from government offices in participating countries in recent
Abuse of the VISA Waiver Program poses threats to U.S. national
security and increases illegal immigration. For example, one of the co-
conspirators in the World Trade Center bombing of 1993 deliberately
chose to use a fraudulent Swedish passport to attempt entry into the
U.S. because of Sweden's participation in the Visa Waiver Program.
Foreign Student Visa Program: more than 500,000 foreign nationals
entering each year; within the last 10 years, 16,000 came from such
terrorist supporting states as Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, and Syria.
The foreign student visa system is one of the most under-regulated
systems we have today. We've seen bribes, bureaucracy, and other
problems with this system that leave it wide open to abuse by
terrorists and other criminals.
For example, in the early 1990s, five officials at four California
colleges, were convicted of taking bribes, providing counterfeit
education documents, and fraudulently applying for more than 100
foreign student visas.
It is unclear what steps the INS took to find and deport the foreign
nationals involved in this scheme.
Each year, we have 300 million border crossings. For the most part,
these individuals are legitimate visitors to our country. We currently
have no way of tracking all of these visitors.
Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the attack, was admitted as
a non-immigrant visitor in July 2001. He traveled freely to and from
the U.S. during the past 2 years and was, according to the INS, in
``legal status'' the day of the attack. Other hijackers also traveled
with ease throughout the country.
It has become all too clear that without an adequate tracking system,
our country becomes a sieve, creating ample opportunities for
terrorists to enter and establish their operations without detection.
I sit as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on
Technology, Terrorism and Government Information. Last month, we held a
hearing on the need for new technologies to assist our government
agencies in keeping terrorists out of the United States.
The testimony at that hearing was very illuminating. We were given a
picture of an immigration system in chaos, and a border control system
rife with vulnerabilities. Agency officials don't communicate with each
other. Computers are incompatible. And even in instances here
technological leaps have been made, like the issuance of more than 4.5
million ``smart'' border crossing cards with biometric data, the
technology is not even used.
Personally, I am astonished that a person can apply for a visa and
granted a visa by the State Department, and that there is no mechanism
by which the FBI or CIA can raise a red flag with regard to the
individual if he or she is known to have links to terrorist groups or
otherwise pose a threat to national security.
In the wake of September 11, it is unconscionable that a terrorist
might be permitted to enter the U.S. simply because our government
agencies don't share information.
Indeed, what we have discovered in the aftermath of the September 11
terrorist attacks was that the perpetrators of these attacks had a
certain confidence that our immigration laws could be circumvented
The terrorists did not have to steal into the country as stowaways on
sea vessels, or a border-jumpers evading federal authorities. Most, if
not all, appeared to have come in with temporary visas, which are
routinely granted to tourists, students, and other short-term visitors
to the U.S.
Let me talk about the legislation that I cosponsored with Senators
Kennedy, Brownback, and Kyl.
First, a key component of this solution is the creation of an
interoperable data system that allows the Department of State, the INS,
and other relevant Federal agencies to obtain critical information
about foreign nationals who seek entry into or who have entered the
Right now, our government agencies use different systems, with
different information, in different formats. And they often refuse to
share that information with other agencies within our own government.
This is not acceptable.
When a terrorist presents himself at a consular office asking for a
visa, or at a border crossing with a passport, we need to make sure
that his name and identifying information is checked against an
accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive database. Period.
The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act would require
the creation of this interoperable data system, and will require the
cooperation of all U.S. government agencies in providing accurate and
compatible information to that system.
In addition, the interoperable data system would include
sophisticated, linguistically-based, name-matching algorithms so that
the computers can recognize that ``Muhamad Usam Abdel Raqeeb'' and
``Haj Mohd Othman Abdul Rajeeb,'' are transliterations of the same
name. In other words, this provision would require agencies to ensure
that names can be matched even when they are stored in different sets
of fields in different databases.
Incidentally, this legislation also contains strict privacy
provisions, limiting access to this database to authorized Federal
officials. And the bill contains severe penalties for wrongful access
or misuse of information contained in the database.
Second, this legislation includes concrete steps to restore integrity
to the immigration and visa process. including the following: The
legislation would require all foreign nationals to be fingerprinted
and, when appropriate, submit other biometric data, to the State
Department when applying for visa. This provision should help eliminate
fraud, as well as identify potential threats to the country before they
We include reforms of the visa waiver program, so that any country
wishing to participate in that program must begin to provide its
citizens with tamper-proof, machine-readable passports. The passports
must contain biometric data by October 26, 2003, to help verify
identity at U.S. ports of entry.
Prior to admitting a foreign visitor from a visa waiver country, the
INS inspector must first determine that the individual does not appear
in any ``lookout'' databases.
In addition, the INS would be required to enter stolen passport
numbers in the interoperable data system within 72 hours after
receiving notification of the loss or theft of a passport.
We would establish a robust biometric visa program. By October 26,
2003, newly issued visas must contain biometric data and other
identifying information, like more than 4 million already do on the
Southwest border, and, just as importantly, our own officials at the
border and other ports of entry must have the equipment necessary to
read the new biometric cards.
We worked closely with the university community in crafting new,
strict requirements for the student visa program to crack down on
fraud, make sure that students really are attending classes, and give
the government the ability to track any foreign national who arrives on
a student visa but fails to enroll in school.
The legislation prohibits the issuance of a student visa to any
citizen of a country identified by the State Department as a terrorist-
supporting nation. There is a waiver provision to this prohibition,
however, allowing the State Department to allow students even from
these countries in special cases.
We require that airlines and cruiseliners provide passenger and crew
manifests to immigration officials before arrival, so that any
potential terrorists or other wrongdoers can be singled out before they
arrive in this country and disappear among the general populace.
The bill contains a number of other related provisions as well, but
the gist of the legislation is this: Where we can provide law
enforcement more information about potentially dangerous foreign
nationals, we do so. Where we can reform our border-crossing system to
weed out or deter terrorists or others
who would do us harm, we do so. And where we can update technology to
meet the demands of the modern war against terror, we do that as well.
As we prepare to modify our immigration system, we must be sure to
enact changes that are realistic and feasible. We must also provide the
necessary tools to implement them.
Our Nation will be no more secure tomorrow if we create new top-of-
the line databases and do not see to it that government agencies use
them to share and receive critical information.
We will be no safer tomorrow if we do not create a workable entry-
exit tracking system to ensure that terrorists do not enter the U.S.
and blend into our communities without detection.
And we will be no safer if we simply authorize new programs and
information sharing, but do not provide the resources necessary to put
the new technology at the border, train agents appropriately, and
require our various government agencies to cooperate in this effort.
We have a lot to do but I am confident that we will move swiftly to
address these important issues. The legislation Senators Kennedy,
Brownback, Kyl, and I introduce today is an important, and strong,
first step. But this is only the beginning of a long, difficult
In closing, I would like to respond to concerns that this bill is
``anti-immigrant.'' We are a nation of immigrants. Indeed, the
overwhelming percentage of the people who come to live in this country
do so to enjoy the blessings of liberty, equality, and opportunity. The
overwhelming percentage of the people who visa this country mean us no
But there are several thousand innocent people, including foreign
nationals, who were killed on September 11 in part because a network of
fanatics determined to wreak death, destruction, and terror exploited
weaknesses in our immigration system to come here, to stay here, to
study here, and to kill here.
We learned at Oklahoma City that not all terrorists are foreign
nationals. But the world is a dangerous place, and there are peopled
and regimes that would destroy us if they had the chance.
We are all casualties of September 11. Our society has necessarily
changed as our perception of the threats we face has changed. The
scales have fallen from our eyes.
It is unfortunate that we need to address the vulnerabilities in our
immigration system that September 11 painfully revealed. The changes we
need to make in that system will inconvenience people. We can ``thank''
the terrorists for that.
Once implemented, however, those changes will make it easier for law-
abiding foreign to visit or study here, and for law-abiding immigrants
who want to live here. More important, once they are here, their
safety, and ours, will be greatly enhanced.
We must do everything we can to deter the terrorists, here and
abroad, who would do us harm from Oklahoma City to downtown Manhattan,
we have learned just how high the stakes are. It would dishonor the
innocent victims of September 11 and the brave men and women of our
armed forces who are defending our liberty at this very instant, if we
flag or fail in this effort.
I urge my colleagues to support us on this legislation.
Mr. KYL. Mr. President, today, Senators Kennedy, Brownback, Feinstein
and I join together to introduce the Enhanced Border Security and Visa
Entry Reform Act of 2001. This bill represents the merging of counter-
terrorism legislation recently introduced by Senator Feinstein and I
and separately by Senators Kennedy and Brownback. This bipartisan,
streamlined product, cosponsored by both the chairman and ranking
Republican of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will significantly
enhance our ability to keep terrorists out of the United States and
find terrorists who are here. I also want to reiterate my appreciation
to Senators Kennedy, Feinstein, and Brownback, and especially to their
staffmembers, for their hard work and cooperation in developing this
bill. I am hopeful that we can work together toward the bill's passage,
and signature into law, before the 107th Congress adjourns for the
Last month the President signed into law anti-terrorism legislation
that will provide many of the tools necessary to keep terrorists out of
the United States, and to detain those terrorists who have entered our
country. These tools, while all important, will be significantly
enhanced by the bill we introduce today.
Under the Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2001, the
Homeland Defense director will be responsible for the coordination of
Federal law enforcement and intelligence communities, the Departments
of Transportation, State, Treasury, and all other relevant agencies to
develop and implement a comprehensive, interoperable electronic data
system for these governmental agencies to find and keep out terrorists.
That system will be up and running by October 26, 2003, 2 years after
the signing into law of the USA Patriot Act.
Under our bill, terrorists will be deprived of the ability to present
fake or altered international documents in order to gain entrance, or
stay here. Foreign nationals will be provided with new travel
documents, using new technology that will include a person's
fingerprint(s) or other form of ``biometric'' identification. These
cards will be used by visitors upon exit and entry into the United
States, and will alert authorities immediately if a visa has expired or
a red flag is raised by a federal agency. Under our bill, any foreign
passport or other travel document issued after October 26, 2003 will
have to contain a biometric component. The deadline for providing for a
way to compare biometric information presented at the border is also
October 26, 2003.
Another provision of the bill will further strengthen the ability of
the U.S. Government to prevent terrorists from using our ``Visa Waiver
Program'' to enter the country. Under our bill, the 29 participating
Visa Waiver nations will, in addition to the USA Patriot Act Visa
Waiver reforms, be required to report stolen passport numbers to the
State Department; otherwise, a nation is prohibited from participating
in the program. In addition, our bill clarifies that the Attorney
General must enter stolen passport numbers into the interoperable data
system within 72 hours of notification of loss or theft. Until that
system is established, the Attorney General must enter that information
into any existing data system.
Another section of our bill will make a significant difference in our
efforts to stop terrorists from ever entering our country. Passenger
manifests on all flights scheduled to come to the United States must be
forwarded in real-time, and then cleared, by the Immigration and
Naturalization Service prior to the flight's arrival. All cruise and
cargo lines and cross-border bus lines will also have to submit such
lists to the INS. Our bill also removes a current U.S. requirement that
all passengers on flights to the United States be cleared by the INS
within 45 minutes of arrival. Clearly, in some circumstances, the INS
will need more time to clear all prospective entrants to the United
States. These simple steps will give appropriate officials advance
notice of foreigners coming into the country, particularly visitors or
immigrants who pose security threats to the United States.
The Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act will also provide much
needed reforms and requirements in our U.S. foreign student visa
program, which has allowed numerous foreigners to enter the country
without ever attending classes and, for those who do attend class, with
lax or no oversight of such students by the Federal Government. Our
bill will change that, and will require that the State Department
within 4 months, with the concurrence of the Department, maintain a
computer database with all relevant infromation about foreign students.
In the past decade, more than 16,000 people have entered the United
States on student visas from states included on the Government's list
of terrorist sponsors. Notwithstanding that Syria is one of the
countries on the list, the State Department recently issued visas to 14
Syrian nationals so that they could attend flight schools in Fort
Worth, TX. United States educational institutions will be required to
immediately notify the INS when a foreign student violates the term of
the visa by failing to show up for class or leaving
school early. Our legislation will prevent most persons from obtaining
student visas if they come from terrorist-supporting states such as
Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, and Syria, unless the Secretary of State and
Attorney General determine that such applicants do not pose a threat to
the safety or national security of the United States.
For the first time since the War of 1812, the United States has faced
a massive attack from foreigners on our own soil. Every one of the
terrorists who committed the September 11 atrocities were foreign
nationals who had entered the United States legally through our visa
system. None of them should have been allowed entry due to their ties
to terrorist organizations, and yet even those whose visas had expired
were not expelled.
Mohamed Atta, for example, the suspected ringleader of the attacks,
was allowed into the United States on a tourist visa, even though he
made clear his intentions to go to flight school while in the United
States. Clearly, at the very least, he should have been queried about
why he was using his tourist visa to attend flight school.
Another hijacker, Hani Hanjour, was here on a student visa that had
expired as of September 11. Hani Hanjour never attended class. In
addition, at least two other visitor visa-holders overstayed their
visa. In testimony before the Terrorism subcommittee of which I am the
ranking member, U.S. officials have told us that they possess little
information about foreigners who come into this country, how many there
are, and even whether they leave when required by their visas.
America is a nation that welcomes international visitors, and should
remain so. But terrorists have taken advantage of our system and its
openness. Now that we face new threats to our homeland, it is time we
restore some balance to our consular and immigration policies.
As former chairman and now ranking Republican of the Judiciary
Committee's Terrorism Subcommittee, I have long suggested, and strongly
supported, many of the anti-terrorism and immigration initiatives now
being advocated by Republicans and Democrats alike. In my sadness about
the overwhelming and tragic events that took thousands of precious
lives, I am resolved to push forward on all fronts to fight against
terrorism. That means delivering justice to those who are responsible
for the lives lost on September 11, and reorganizing the institutions
of government so that the law-abiding can continue to live their lives
in freedom. It is extremely important that we pass the Border Security
and Visa Entry Reform Act before we adjourn for the year. To all of the
Senators who worked on this bill, including Senators Kennedy,
Feinstein, Brownback, and Hatch, Snowe, Cantwell, Bond, Sessions,
Thurmond and others I again want to express my appreciation. This bill
will make a difference.
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