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Remarks by Secretary Asa Hutchinson to the Economic Development Administration's Annual Conference

For Immediate Release
* Remarks as Prepared *
May 7, 2003

[ ... ]

Technology also helps us verify that the 35 million annual visitors to this country are who they say they are, and leave when they're supposed to leave.  Our new U.S. VISIT system will use traditional information - coupled with biometric identifiers such as photographs and fingerprints - to create an electronic check-in-check-out system for foreign nationals working or studying in the U.S.  It will complement our SEVIS system, which is helping university officials keep track of their students, so our Department quickly learns of any change in their status.

We take our mission of protection and enforcement seriously.

This is why we restructured our border enforcement functions into two separate entities - the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, to provide a single "face" for those seeking to cross our borders - and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which investigates violations of immigration and customs laws at and within our borders.

At the same time, we realize that we have to be customer-oriented, like a business.

Last month the Department's Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services -- led by Eduardo Aguirre [ah-GEAR-ay], who became a U.S. citizen himself 33 years ago - announced new, more convenient electronic filing for two of the most popular immigration applications.

The Bureau will treat applicants with fairness and respect, preserving our tradition as a warm and welcoming nation that values the contributions of immigrants.

The key to this effort, as always, is information.  Information helps us measure risks and verify truths.  Accurate, timely information helps us decide where to deploy finite resources and manpower.  Information is essential to homeland security.

The U.S. VISIT system is a good example of this.  Another is CAPPS II.  CAPPS II will help us protect air travelers by confirming passengers' identities and measuring their risk potential, all in the blink of an eye.  It will use existing public information to help airport screeners measure risk and push their security perimeter outward, adding an extra layer of security where needed.

We cannot be everywhere at once.  But technology such as this, used properly, can multiply our force strength and effectiveness many times over.

[ ... ]

[ End ]