- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

The Senate yesterday passed a border-security bill that would help authorities track the movements of foreign nationals in the United States and try to spot potential terrorists before they enter the country.

The bill, however, did not include the amnesty President Bush sought for some aliens who had overstayed their entry visas.

The bill passed unanimously, and senators said that was the result of widespread support for changes after September 11.

"We have legislation here that protects our borders without compromising our values or our economy. This legislation is a measured, intelligent response to an evil that we will defeat," said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, who sponsored the bill along with Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, and Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dianne Feinstein of California.

Three of the September 11 hijackers had overstayed their visas, and two of them had re-entered the United States after their visas had expired. Six months after the attacks, the Immigration and Naturalization Service sent approved student visas for two of the terrorists to a Florida flight school.

The bill would require information-sharing among the FBI, CIA, Drug Enforcement Administration, State Department and INS.

It also would require passenger manifests to be filed from ships and planes before they leave their home ports for the United States, to give authorities more time to investigate visitors.

The bill would give federal agencies the mandate and the tools to monitor visa holders' movements into and out of the country, and it also would authorize the hiring of hundreds of new Border Patrol personnel.

"The Enhanced Border Security Visa Entry Reform Act will strengthen the security of our borders, will improve our ability to screen visitors, monitor foreign nationals and enhance our capacity to deter potential terrorists," Mr. Kennedy said.

The bill must return to the House, where several Senate amendments are almost certain to be approved and the bill sent to the president.

The bill had been stalled for four months while its backers negotiated with Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat.

Mr. Byrd had held up the bill because, he said there was no guarantee there would be enough money for the three-year, $3.2 billion cost and because he was angered by Republicans' refusal in December to accept his $15 billion homeland security provisions. He also feared that the amnesty provisions would be attached to the bill.

Passing the bill without amnesty provisions is a setback for the Bush administration. Mr. Bush has made outreach to Hispanics a key part of his administration, and he wants the amnesty measure as a signal of good faith to Hispanic groups and to Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Under amnesty provisions that the House passed last month, anyone who has overstayed an entry visa or, in some cases, entered the country illegally, but who has a qualifying family relationship or business sponsor, would pay a $1,000 fine in exchange for having his legal status adjusted. He also would avoid having to return to his home country and waiting up to 10 years before applying for green cards.

Several senators had considered attaching the provisions to the border-security bill, but yesterday they said they didn't want to further weigh down the bill.

"It's just too complicated," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican and one of those who had been considering offering the provision as an amendment to the bill. "I don't think we had the votes to do it."

Still, Republican and Democratic leaders said a debate on amnesty will take place this year.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide