- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Republicans say male visitors from certain foreign nations should continue to be registered with the government despite a provision in a recent Senate spending bill that would kill funding for the registration program.
The provision, which Republicans say they will fight to remove, stops funding for the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. It was added to the Senate's omnibus spending bill as part of a $165 million amendment to fund a broader entry and exit tracking system.
The system requires non-immigrant male visitors from 25 countries to be fingerprinted and subject to periodic checks. The registration deadline for visitors from the first five countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria was Dec. 16.
House and Senate Republican aides said that allowing the amendment to stop funding the system was a mistake.
"It's very high on the list of things to be struck," said one House leadership aide.
The $390 billion spending bill passed the Senate on Thursday, 69-29. It includes provisions from the 11 appropriations bills that were to have been passed before fiscal 2003 began in October.
The House will attach its own version of the bill to the Senate version, forcing a conference to work out the differences. That's where proponents of the system say they will strike out the language.
The Senate amendment passed by a voice vote. It was sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican but was worked out with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat; Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, who pushed for the language stopping the system.
Immigration advocates have complained that the program unfairly targets and hassles innocent visitors.
"The idea was that Congress needs to assess whether this program is an effective use of resources in the war to prevent terrorism," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Kennedy. "This program was set up with very little, if any, debate on the Hill, with very little input from the members."
The amendment asks for the administration to report on the process for forming the system and why the program targets certain nations.
A spokesman for Mr. Kyl said the senator's focus in the amendment was to ensure there was sufficient funding for the broader tracking program and that the funding for the system was mistakenly cut off in the amendment.
In a statement, Mr. Kyl said that the system "plays an important role in the fight against terrorism, and already has led to the apprehension of terrorist suspects and aliens posing law-enforcement threats to the United States."
While the spending bill is pending, the House passed another "continuing resolution" to keep the government funded yesterday.
But Democrats said Republicans fell short in the continuing resolution by not providing more money for homeland security.
They offered a procedural motion to add $3.5 billion to fund commitments they say President Bush made to emergency workers, which would have included $90 million to monitor the health of emergency workers from ground zero in New York City.
But Republicans said that debate was more proper for the omnibus spending bill. The House rejected the motion 222-201, with all Republicans who voted opposing the measure and all but one Democrat supporting it, as did the chamber's lone independent.


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