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[Congressional Record: May 8, 2002 (Extensions)]
[Page E750-E751]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []



                               speech of

                         HON. NEIL ABERCROMBIE

                               of hawaii

                    in the house of representatives

                          Tuesday, May 7, 2002

  Mr. ABERCROMBIE Madam Speaker, I voted ``Present'' on final passage 
of the Senate amendments to H.R. 3525, the Enhanced Border Security and 
Visa Reform Act of 2001. I fully support the bill's stated purpose of 
reducing threats posed by individuals and organizations which would 
enter the United States with the intent to commit acts of terrorism.
  My concern with this measure centers on Section 306, entitled 
``Restriction On Issuance Of Visas To Nonimmigrants From Countries That 
Are State Sponsors of International Terrorism.'' Section 306 
establishes a sweeping, over-broad prohibition against issuing 
nonimmigrant visas to citizens of any nation on the State Department's 
list of terrorist states.
  This could preclude the kind of people-to-people contact that can 
change cultures, and even the political regimes of those countries. 
Even at the height of the Cold War, we had exchange programs involving 
students and scholars from Communist nations. By sharing their first-
hand experiences and changed perspectives, returnees from these 
programs helped undermine the demonized image of the USA projected in 
the official propaganda of the Soviet Union and its satellites.
  In many of the nations on the prohibited list, there is a vast 
reservoir of good will toward the United States and a broadly based 
public sentiment exerting a countervailing pressure against their 
regimes' official hostility toward our country. Iran is a case in 
point, where large numbers of voters in the most recent national 
elections cast their ballots in favor of candidates who disagreed with 
the policies of the dominant faction. It is a serious mistake to 
discount that popular sentiment and to ignore opportunities to 
strengthen it by exposing citizens of those nations to Americans and 
American life.
  Section 306 authorizes the Secretary of State, in consultation with 
the Attorney General and heads of other agencies, to make exceptions to 
individual aliens covered by this Section if they are found to pose no 
threat to the safety or national security of the United States. Section 
306 directs the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney 
General and heads of other agencies, to develop standards for making 
these exceptions.
  The language here is unacceptably broad. If the exemption guidelines 
or standards were

[[Page E751]]

outlined in the legislation, we would have had an opportunity to 
discuss and consider the merits of programs like education and cultural 
exchange and their usefulness for attaining U.S. national security and 
foreign policy goals. As it stands, it allows the current or a future 
Administration to establish exemption standards so narrow as to 
preclude the possibility of accruing the benefits of a broader--but 
still regulated with an eye to security considerations--exchange of 
citizens. In abdicating its role in setting standards, the Congress has 
forgone an opportunity to have a voice in this important aspect of