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United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act.
April 12, 2002

Ms. MaryEllen Salamone

Director , Families of September 11


Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee for granting me this opportunity to testify on this most critical issue.

Between July and September 2001, nineteen terrorists gained access to our country, unrecognized, and continued their planning and preparations to carry out an attack of epic proportions against the people of the United States. On September 11, 2001, they passed through the airline security at three major airports, hijacked four commercial jets in flight and crashed the planes into the towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania. They murdered, in cold blood, thousands of innocent people. They maimed the security and innocence of more than ten thousand children left without one or both parents. They destroyed the trust Americans had in the safety of their country. On September 11, 2001, the terrorists won.

My name is MaryEllen Salamone. I am the wife of John Salamone, a broker in Preferred Stock for Cantor Fitzgerald, who was killed in the apocalyptic attacks on September 11. I am a widow, a newly single mother of three small beautiful children, and a director of the organization Families of September 11. We are an organization comprised of nearly 1,000 family members of people killed or injured in the attacks. Our mission is to promote the interests of families of victims of September 11 and to support public policies that improve the prevention of and the response to terrorism. Our goal is to assist in any and all efforts to prevent any other family from suffering the devastating loss we have incurred. We are committed to effect change so that the lives taken from our loved ones will not have been lost in vain. Families of September 11 supports without reservation the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act.

Defects in American procedures allowed the heinous events of September 11 to occur. Osama Bin Laden is not a brilliant man who succeeded in toppling the homeland defense of the United States of America. He is an average man who took advantage of the weaknesses in our policies governing airline security and our immigration laws. The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act is an important and necessary bill that must be passed now. It addresses the failures of our immigration laws and visa procedures, and without it, we remain fearfully vulnerable.

As an example, on March 11, the six month anniversary of the attacks, Mohammed Atta, the purported ringleader of the team of hijackers, and his cousin, the two men who piloted the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the two men responsible for the murders of more than 2500 people, were posthumously granted permission to attend flight school by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. Even more horrifying than this is the realization that this is just one glaring and high profile example of dangerous individuals being able to enter our country legally. The honorable Members of the House of Representatives have already passed this bill, and the Senate must do the same. Our borders remain as porous as they were before September 11 without immediate action.

Families of September 11 supports all provisions of this bill as written. We particularly appreciate the opportunity to recognize key provisions of this legislation which we feel most effectively will address the flaws in our present system.

$ INTERAGENCY INFORMATION SHARING - This bill requires the use of advanced and available technology to correct flawed practices and appropriates funding for their development. Despite the advantages the computer age offers, independent agencies of the government are not equipped with the capacity to share information on foreign individuals residing in our country, or seeking to gain entry through our borders. Individuals could be on a CIA Terrorist Watch List while gaining lawful access to the United States. The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act prevents the perpetuation of this inexcusable deficiency by requiring the development of interoperable law enforcement and intelligence data systems with name matching capacities and training. With all the technology available today, it is incomprehensible that a system such as this does not already exist.

$ BIOMETRIC IDENTIFIERS - This legislation further relies on the advancements of science by mandating the use of biometrics. Pertinent sections of the bill expressly provide for the use of only machine readable, tamper resistant visas and travel and entry documents that use standard biometric identifiers. This decreases the likelihood that passports or other documents could be shared or counterfeited. The bill also demands that as a condition to continue in the visa waiver program, foreign countries must issue its nationals machine readable passports with biometric identifiers that comply with standards acceptable within our system.

$ FOREIGN STUDENT MONITORING PROGRAM - Two of the hijackers entered this country under student visas and never reported for classes. To date, there continues to be no enforced regulations that track foreign students or require the reporting of any foreign person with a student visa that does not report for classes as admitted. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 provided for the development of a tracking system and required it to be fully operational within 18 months of the enactment of that legislation. Yet on September 11, 2001, this government had no means to identify or locate foreign individuals on student visas remaining in this country illegally. The provisions required in the Illegal Immigration Act of 1996 were never enforced; a tracking database was never implemented. The Enhanced Border Security Act remedies the lax oversight of the foreign student tracking system and requires adherence to direct reporting requirements within 120 days of the bill's enactment into law.

$ PASSENGER MANIFESTS - Most of the hijackers on September 11 hailed from Saudi Arabia, which, by our own laws, is not required to submit passenger manifests of vessels entering our country. A system most equipped to prevent the passage of dangerous entrants into our country is one which would require an individual to pass through a series of security checkpoints. The Enhanced Border Security Act requires the submission of passenger manifests of all vessels entering our ports, providing an additional opportunity to identify potentially dangerous terrorists.

$ RESTRICTION OF VISAS TO NONIMMIGRANTS FROM COUNTRIES SPONSORING TERRORISM - As a necessary measure to strengthen homeland security during this dangerous time in history, the Enhanced Border Security Bill also prohibits the issuance of entry documents to any alien from a country that is a state sponsor of international terrorism, unless the Secretary of State determines that the person is not a threat.

In 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke of a world founded upon four essential freedoms, the fourth being freedom from fear. We, in the United States of America, no longer enjoy that freedom; we can no longer claim it as our own. Our border policies and immigration laws are fatally flawed. These weaknesses contributed to our failure to prevent the attacks of September 11. As a result, thousands of our loved ones were taken from us senselessly. Over ten thousand children cry for the loss of a parent as they close their eyes to sleep. Seven months have passed since the murder of three thousand people on American soil, and our border security and immigration policies leave us waiting for another attack.

The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act would strengthen our borders, and establish more effective procedures for immigration screening and control. It requires the use of currently available technology and coordinates interagency cooperation. It is not fiscally burdensome or inappropriate. It does not unduly impede anyone's civil liberties, nor is it violative of due process. The events of September 11 and the current state of international affairs clearly illustrate that this is a time to secure safety, not a time to allow loopholes for terrorist activity. This legislation must be passed without amendment. As written, it secures our safety; if amended, it compromises it. The delay in passing this legislation is unconscionable. As Members of Congress, you have a responsibility to secure the safety of those you have been elected to represent. You must pass the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act and you must pass it now. Otherwise we stand to lose another important freedom, the freedom to live.