[Congressional Record: December 20, 2001 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Enhanced
border Security Act of 2001. We must take the long term steps to
strengthen the security at our borders. I want to commend my
colleagues, Senators Kennedy and Feinstein, Brownback and Kyl, for
their tireless work to address border security issues.
The bill we will be voting on today, the Enhanced Border Security Act
of 2001, was a product of the thoughtful merging of two bills. As an
original cosponsor of Senators Kennedy and Brownback's initial version
of this bill, I have worked closely with the four principal sponsors to
integrate the best of each of these two pieces of legislation, and have
been very please with the outcome of this effort.
This bill addresses what I consider to be one of the most important
issues in our fight against terorism--how we can effectively secure our
borders from terrorists. This bill address border security by
increasing the number of border patrol and immigration personnel at the
borders; improving the quality and sharing of identity information;
improving the screening of foreign nations seeking to enter the U.S. on
visas; and improving awareness of the comings and goings of these
foreign nationals as they enter or exit our country.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I have been honored to work
closely with Senators Kennedy and Feinstein to find ways to better
protect our borders and provide necessary support to the men 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. Customs 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
compromise 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. This bill also addresses these needs by
increasing INS inspectors and border patrol staffing each by 200
persons per year for the fiscal year 2002-2006. The bill also
authorizes $150 million in spending for improving technology and
facilities at our borders.
The Enhanced Border Security Act of 2001 addresses several other
critical issues. In hearings this session before the Immigration
Subcommittee and the Technology and Terrorism Subcommittee, as well as
the full Judiciary Committee, 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 the 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.
Two of the most important provisions of this legislation address
international cooperation in enhancing border security. Protecting U.S.
borders requires the assistance and cooperation of our closest allies.
Indeed, we share an interest in protecting our respective borders.
Citizens of several countries, including most European countries, Japan
and Canada, can enter the U.S. without visas. And this is as it should
be. But the U.S. must, with new urgency, continue to engage Canada,
Mexico and other countries that may be interested in sharing law
enforcement and intelligence information to protect our respective
borders. We must improve information sharing, and must improve the
technology to make sure information is shared with the right people and
in a timely manner.
In October, we passed a major anti-terrorism bill that contained a
number of provisions that will enable our law enforcement community and
the intelligence community to obtain and share vital information
regarding persons who are a threat to the U.S. One of the most
important new tools I was pleased to have had included in USA Patriot
Act is a requirement that State and Justice develop a visa technology
standard to help secure our border and make certain each individual who
seeks entry into our country on a visa is the person he or she claims
to be and there is no known reason to keep that person out.
We must work with our allies to take advantage of this technology
standard to improve interoperability on an international scale. We
should do what we can to eliminate technological barriers to
information-sharing regarding dangerous individuals and to address our
mutual concern for border security. To this end, this bill requires the
Department of State to report to Congress within six months on how best
can undertake ``perimeter'' screening with our partners, Canada and
Mexico. Further, the bill requires the Department of State, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Office of Homeland
Security to 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 whose citizens we allow into our country without a
The provisions we have achieved in the USA Patriot Act laid the
foundation for more specific provisions to assure the best use of
technology to improve the security at our borders. This bill fulfills
the promise of the USA Patriot Act to assure information sharing will
be thoughtfully implemented in short order.
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, this
bill will do three things. First, it will require technology be
implemented to track the initial entry and exit of aliens travelling on
a U.S. visa. We know now that several of the terrorists who attacked
America on September 11th 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 Department 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. This 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
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 realtime 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 identity 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. The bill we
are voting on today includes a number of safeguards to protect
individuals' rights to privacy. The bill provides 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.
I urge a favorable vote.
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