- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

Identification cards bearing a foreigner's digitized fingerprints would be required for entry into the United States under a proposal before the Senate.
The legislation is designed to close visa loopholes exploited by terrorists in the Sept. 11 attacks. Some were in the country on expired visas, and others entered the country on student visas but never showed up for school.
"This nation has now seen the terrible dangers associated with failing to enforce visa deadlines," said lead sponsor Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican. "We have a duty to make this country safer for Americans and legal foreign visitors who follow the rules."
The bill would require extensive background checks and screening of visa applicants and allow tracking of visa holders in the United States. Foreign visitors would be required to carry the identification card containing their fingerprints at all times while in the United States. If not used for departure, it would alert federal officials they have overstayed their visit.
Mr. Bond said the proposal, which is on the Senate's "fast track," could cost as much as $500 million. He said he had notified the White House of the measure but couldn't say whether it had the administrations "blessing."
"The cost of not doing anything is unacceptable," said Mr. Bond during a Capitol Hill news conference with co-sponsors Sens. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, and Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat.
The senators hope to attach the measure to an anti-terrorism measure the Senate is expected to debate and pass next week.
Senate Democrats and Republicans late Wednesday agreed on compromise language for its version of anti-terrorism legislation titled the Uniting and Strengthening America (USA) Act.
The version, from the House dubbed the Patriot Act, unanimously passed the Judiciary Committee late Wednesday and is expected to pass the full House early next week.
The significant difference between the two bills is a two-year expiration date on most provisions in the House version. The Senate refuses to add such a sunset measure.
Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, ranking Judiciary Committee Republican, said most of the administration's requests remain intact. However, a questionable provision allowing indefinite detention of immigrants was changed to seven days, mirroring the House pact.
Struck from the administration's request was permission to use wiretap information collected on Americans by foreign governments. Also eliminated was the disclosure of tax returns and information from the Treasury Department to law enforcement officials.
Northern border patrols would be tripled and $50 million authorized to improve border monitoring.
Many conservatives and liberals have opposed the Bush administration's request for increased law enforcement tools to combat terrorism, but supporters of the Senate agreement say civil liberties will not be trampled.
"There is nothing big in this bill, and while I respect civil libertarians for being alert and on guard, I don't see one thing that would be struck down by the Supreme Court," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and a former U.S. attorney.
Mr. Sessions said some provisions were watered down in the agreement.
Language added by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, would make it more difficult to deport immigrants suspected of soliciting funds for terrorist organizations to commit acts of violence, he said.
"There is no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt they are planning an attack on America," Mr. Sessions said. The only required proof, Mr. Sessions said, should be membership in a terrorist organization.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, will use a procedural rule to bypass the Judiciary Committee and bring the bill straight to the floor for debate next week.
When the measures pass both houses, the final details will be negotiated in a conference committee.
One Republican leadership aide said there are "significant differences" in the two bills that must be worked out before final passage.
"But we can iron out our differences," the aide said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide