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

[Congressional Record: April 15, 2002 (Senate)]
[Page S2642-S2643]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr15ap02-39]                         



 
             ENHANCED BORDER SECURITY AND VISA ENTRY REFORM

  Mr. KYL. In the remaining time I have I would like to address a 
matter that will be before the Senate as the pending business as soon 
as we conclude morning business; that is, the Enhanced Border Security 
and Visa Entry Reform Act, H.R. 3525. The sponsors of this legislation 
all spoke to the reasons for this legislation on Friday when the matter 
was brought to the floor at 11:30 by unanimous consent request of the 
majority leader. I thank Majority Leader Daschle for bringing this 
matter to the Senate floor so we can dispose of it.
  A little bit of history is in order. The sponsors of the 
legislation--Senators Kennedy, Brownback, Feinstein, and myself--had 
worked hard to develop this legislation in the aftermath of September 
11 because we held hearings in two different subcommittees of the 
Judiciary Committee that revealed loopholes in our immigration laws, 
loopholes through which some of the terrorists who came here and 
carried out their horrible attack on September 11 were able to gain 
entry into the United States. They came on legal visas, visas that in 
some cases should never have been granted. They were here under student 
visas, even though they no longer attended the classes they had signed 
up to attend. In the case of some of them, they were out of status by 
the time of September 11.
  We set about to identify loopholes in our immigration and visa laws 
that we could close to make it much more difficult for terrorists to 
gain entry into the United States. That legislation was developed 
before the end of last year's congressional session and was actually 
adopted by the House of Representatives just before we adjourned for 
the year. We attempted to have it adopted by the Senate, but Senator 
Byrd objected on the grounds that it required Senate debate, and he 
didn't want to simply adopt it as a matter of unanimous consent.
  At the beginning of this year, we sought to find ways to bring the 
bill to the Senate floor for that debate and amendment, if need be, and 
had not been successful until the end of last week when, as I said, the 
majority leader successfully propounded a unanimous consent request 
that the Senate take the bill up. There is no limitation on time nor on 
amendments, but there has been such a strong outpouring of support for 
the bill--indeed, I think there are some 61 cosponsors, and that 
probably reflects the fact we have not gotten around to all the Members 
of the Senate, that it is clear the bill can pass very quickly as soon 
as we are ready to call for the final vote. But out of deference to 
those who believed it did need debate, that opportunity has been made 
available.

  The only people I am aware of who spoke on the legislation on Friday 
were the four cosponsors: Senators Kennedy, Brownback, Feinstein, and 
myself. We all laid out the case, to one degree or another, for the 
legislation and urged our colleagues who may have something to say 
about it to come to the floor and express themselves. Indeed, if there 
were amendments, we would be happy to entertain those amendments.
  We are obviously hopeful there will not be, so we can simply adopt 
the legislation approved by the House and we can send it to the 
President for his signature. Why is this our goal? Each week that goes 
by without this legislation being in place represents an opportunity 
for a terrorist to gain entry into the United States. We have to close 
the loopholes. Most of the actions the legislation calls for are going 
to take time to implement, so it is not as if we can slam the door shut 
the minute the President signs the bill. We have to put into place 
procedures, for example, whereby the FBI, CIA, international 
organizations, and others can all make available, to the people who 
grant visas, information that bears upon the qualifications of the 
people seeking entry to the United States, people who apply for the 
visas--information that might suggest, for example, that there is a 
connection with a terrorist group and therefore the visa ought to be 
denied.
  That is going to take time to implement, as will other provisions of 
the legislation. So time is wasting. We know there is no--I was going 
to state it in the negative. I was going to say there is no evidence 
the terrorists have given up the ghost here. I think there is a lot of 
evidence that they will try to strike us when they believe they can, 
and when they see us as having a point of vulnerability. That is why we 
have to begin to close these windows of vulnerability as soon as 
possible.
  The head of the INS has indicated he thinks some of the timeframes 
for achievement of results under this legislation may even be pretty 
difficult for INS to meet, which is to say it is all the more important 
to begin now to close these loopholes because it is going to take a 
while to get everything

[[Page S2643]]

in place, to effectuate all of the pieces of this legislation.
  That goes back to my point that we have to get this signed as soon as 
possible. If there are amendments to the legislation here on the Senate 
floor, then it will have to go to a conference committee. That is all 
right, assuming we can get the conference to act quickly and bring the 
bill back to both the House and the Senate. But it is important we do 
that so the President can sign the legislation.
  I appeal to my colleagues who have something to say about this, 
especially those who believed we should not consider it without debate 
on the floor, to come to the Chamber and explain their views on it, and 
to offer any amendments if they have amendments, so we can deal with 
those amendments and get on with our business.
  I know the majority leader was reluctant to do this before without an 
agreement to have a specific time limit on debate because he wanted to 
complete work on the energy bill by the end of this week--as do, I 
think, almost all of us. I am sure all of us would like to be done with 
the energy bill. But we are not going to be able to finish that if we 
cannot quickly finish the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry 
Reform Act.
  Again, I call upon my colleagues to come over. Let's finish the job 
and get this done.

  I would like to say one other thing because there is a little element 
of confusion about something in section 245(i). Section 245(i) is a 
provision of the immigration law that allows for people who want to 
gain permanent status in the United States under two specific 
provisions to do so. Its provisions had terminated with respect to a 
large group of people, maybe 200,000 or 300,000 people, who wanted to 
gain permanent residence but whose legal status in the United States 
terminated and therefore they would have had to go back to their 
country of origin and apply for that status.
  What some people wanted to do, including the administration, was to 
extend the period of time that they could make their application and 
complete that process so they could be allowed to stay in the United 
States permanently. Some of this involves reunification of families, 
for example.
  In an effort to support the administration and to accommodate the 
interests of those who wanted to do that, there was an agreement 
between Senator Kennedy and myself--and others--about exactly how that 
should be done. We both committed ourselves to trying to achieve the 
ratification of the temporary extension of section 245(i). The House of 
Representatives actually passed a second version of the Enhanced Border 
Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, a version which included section 
245(i) with it. They did that earlier this year. That bill is pending 
at the desk.
  It has not been called up for consideration, but I want my colleagues 
to know that is where this debate about section 245(i) comes into 
effect. There are some who believe section 245(i) represents a grant of 
amnesty to people. Perhaps one could argue that is, to a limited 
extent, true.
  They are concerned that it represents the first step in a broader 
grant of amnesty. I hope that is not the case. But they have some 
concerns they have expressed about it. I hope we do not confuse the 
issue of 245(i) with H.R. 3525, the bill pending at the desk that we 
will be taking up again in just a few minutes--we can quickly pass H.R. 
3525, get it to the President for signature, and then deal with section 
245(i)--because I believe we need to deal with it, but I believe it 
will be easier to deal with outside the context of H.R. 3525.
  Here is the reason I say that. I urge my colleagues who may be 
thinking about combining the two just to think about this for a moment. 
I believe we have an excellent chance of getting both of these things 
passed. But I think we may have an excellent chance of getting neither 
of them passed if they are combined. The reason is, I am concerned the 
Members of the House of Representatives may not be as inclined to vote 
for section 245(i) again as they were before. As a result, if we put 
this into conference and the question were put to the Members of the 
House, I am not certain they would vote for it. Nor am I sure that 
those who are opposed to section 245(i) in this body would permit it to 
come to a vote if it had to be brought back to this body as part of the 
Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act.
  So I urge my colleagues who support this to bear with us and 
understand we can have both of these things if we treat them 
separately. Those who oppose 245(i) will have a full opportunity to 
debate it and amend it if necessary, and to have a vote on it. But I 
hope that in an effort to kill section 245(i), they will not also be 
willing to kill H.R. 3525. I just tell my colleagues, if you try to 
combine 245(i) with H.R. 3525, you may be signing the death warrant for 
both, and I do not think that is the intent, of some people, anyway, 
who have talked about the possibility of filing an amendment relating 
to section 245(i) on H.R. 3525.
  So I call on my colleagues to come to the floor and debate this 
legislation. If they have amendments, let's offer the amendments and 
try to dispose of them.
  I see Senator Kennedy is here, with whom I worked closely on this 
legislation. Frankly, we would not be where we are without all the work 
he has put into it. I am sure he will join me in asking those who have 
anything at all to say about it to come to the floor and say it so we 
can get on with it, take our vote, and then get back on the energy bill 
which obviously we want to conclude by the end of this week.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Leahy). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.

                          ____________________






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