- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

The House passed a border security bill yesterday that would give the government tools to monitor foreign visitors' movements in the country, ending a five-month delay and sending the bill to President Bush, who is expected to sign it next week.
Prodded by memories of September 11, the House voted 411-0 in favor of the bill. The measure passed the Senate last month, 97-0.
"It's an important step to tighten up the visa procedures and to track those who come to our country legally, through visa or passport laws, and then violate those laws and disappear into our society," said Rep. George W. Gekas, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary immigration and claims subcommittee.
Three of the September 11 terrorists had overstayed their visas, and some had even left and reentered the country on expired visas. Also, new student visas were sent six months after the attacks for two of the terrorists who piloted the hijacked planes.
Even worse, said Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, "was the fact that the student visas were approved 13 months after these two terrorists graduated from flight school. The purpose for which the student visas were applied for had been fulfilled and they should have left the country."
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said all of this will change under the bill: "It will bar most student visas from terrorist-sponsoring nations, increase resources for border-control authorities and speed up implementation of a governmentwide system to better share information about potential terrorists seeking visas to enter the United States."
The bill would require students to actually attend school as promised and would limit temporary visas for visitors from terrorism-sponsoring nations. It requires federal agencies to share information with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, authorizes 200 additional INS inspectors and 200 more INS investigators, and includes pay increases for Border Patrol agents.
As of Oct. 26, 2004, the State Department would have to issue machine-readable, tamper-resistant visas and other travel documents to visitors. U.S. embassies and consulates also would establish terrorist "lookout committees" to ensure officials are familiar with local known terrorists.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said the bill provides "real solutions to real problems."
The bill had been held up at various times in both chambers. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, objected to Senate action in December, demanding full hearings.
Later, the House sent over a version of the bill that included an amnesty program that would have adjusted the legal status for some illegal immigrants in the country. That version languished in the Senate, opposed by those who said it went too far in rewarding illegal immigrants and by those who said it didn't go far enough.
Then the House delayed the bill for several weeks over a Senate amendment that circumvented regular procurement rules. The Senate unanimously agreed Tuesday to drop the new procurement regulations, clearing the way for the House vote.
In the House vote yesterday, two representatives voted "present." Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, inserted a statement in the record that he intended to vote for the measure. A spokesman for Rep. Neil Abercrombie said the Hawaii Democrat voted present because he supports some changes but thought the bill should be more specific about exceptions to visa limitations for visitors from nations that sponsor terrorism.


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