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Dear Editor:
The following press release was released by the National Immigration Forum.

The announcement by Under Secretary Asa Hutchison of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this morning (Monday), provided more details on the "U.S.-VISIT" (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) Program. Essentially, this is the phased implementation of policies enacted by Congress, including the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, to register those entering and exiting the country. The National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy organization which supported the 2002 law, said today that the announcement signaled several good steps being taken by the DHS, but that it raises some concerns, as well. "Clearly, we need to know who is entering our country, who is here, and who has left," said Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum. "That is a basic first step in national security and will help DHS with the difficult task of targeting those few immigrants and foreign travelers who might seek to do us harm as compared to the millions who come here to build us up and contribute to America." Kelley's organization praised DHS for moving towards a program that applies to foreign visitors, students, travelers, and immigrants across the board, and not just to certain immigrants from certain countries. "It must be even-handed in its application and not single out certain communities," Kelley said Kelley underscored the need for an accurate, timely, and fully-funded effort to implement the ambitious plan. With 30 million non-immigrant entries into the country each year, 23 million of them with visas, sorting the information gathered upon entry and exit and making sure it is accurate will be the greatest challenge facing the program. "The data they collect and share with our nation's gatekeepers must be accurate and on-time," Kelley said. "If every Jose Lopez or Omar Said is tripped up by the system because one Jose Lopez or one Omar Said is on a watch list, we could be in for a disaster. The INS had a horrible track-record on such matters; let's hope the DHS does better." "Furthermore, unless we do something to allow the millions of undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, we will never be able to say we have a handle on our borders," Kelley pointed out. "Practically, mass deportation is not possible, nor remotely desirable. Politically, convincing the American people and Congress of the need to give these hard working immigrants without papers a path towards legal status and citizenship is challenging. Policy-wise, however, it is essential."

Douglas G. Rivlin, Director of Communication
National Immigration Forum