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

[Congressional Record: December 20, 2001 (Senate)]
[Page S13935-S13936]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr20de01-138]                         

  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 
we

[[Page S13936]]

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 
visa.
  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 
States.
  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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