January 9, 2002
As Congress returns to Washington this January, no business is
more important than making our borders secure from potential
terrorists. So much needs to be done, but a good start would be speedy
passage of the Visa Entry Reform Act (H.R. 3229) sponsored by Rep.
Elton Gallegly (R-CA).
Our visa system is in shambles. All of the 19
hijackers entered the United States legally with valid visas. This
makes it clear that our biggest problem is legal rather than illegal
Our Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is unable to cope
with the extraordinary numbers. More than seven million non-immigrants
entered our country last year, including 500,000 on student visas.
The INS has identified 315,000 aliens who should be deported but
can't be found, and that includes three of the hijackers whose visas
had expired. The Office of Inspector General reported to Attorney
General John Ashcroft, "There is no evidence that the INS can locate
illegal aliens who remain in the U.S."
On July 28, 2001, the French foiled a major suicide bombing of the
U.S. Embassy in Paris by arresting Jamal Beghal for a forged visa
extension. We might have avoided the World Trade Towers tragedy if
U.S. officials had arrested the hijackers who had overstayed their
H.R. 3229 would mandate the creation of a centralized,
comprehensive, computerized "LookOut" database to screen visa
applicants in order to identify those who are inadmissible or
deportable. This LookOut database would be available instantly at all
ports of entry, would include biometric data about all applicants, and
would track visa holders and non-U.S. residents.
The LookOut database would include the alien's name, his ID and
passport number, date of birth, nationality, place of residence in his
home country and anticipated U.S. residence, purpose of visit, dates of
prior entries and departures from the United States, biometric
information, expiration date of visa, and visa violations.
The bill provides that, within six months, the Attorney General
shall establish a plan for the INS to include biometric data, with
fingerprints and photographs, on all aliens to whom visas are issued.
The bill also provides that, within 30 days, the Secretary of State
shall establish a Terrorist Lookout Committee within each U.S. Embassy.
H.R. 3229 would require the government to develop a biometric
SmartVisa system that would include tamper-proof, machine-readable
visas containing biometric identifiers, plus machines to electronically
scan and read the visas at each port of entry. The SmartVisa, which
would also include the height, weight, hair color, nationality, and
country of origin, would be issued to each alien seeking entry and
would be scanned by a machine-readable scanner upon entry or departure
of the alien.
There should be no problem in paying for these procedures. Aliens
would be charged a fee to cover the cost of the machine-readable visa
H.R. 3229 would also provide that, beginning immediately, every
air, land, or sea carrier arriving in the United States from a foreign
state would be required to provide advance information about each
passenger, crew member and other occupants. This must include name,
birth date, citizenship, gender, passport number, and country of
The bill provides that the government establish procedures to
ensure that newly issued identification documents, licenses and permits
issued by the United States are designed to prevent fraudulent use or
alteration. No visas may be approved without fingerprints or other
H.R. 3229 would deny most foreign student visas to nationals of
state sponsors of international terrorism. Over the last ten years,
U.S. universities admitted 16,000 students from states that sponsor
Applications for student visas would provide full information on
the student's identity, address in country of origin, names and
addresses of the student's parents and siblings, contacts in the
student's country of residence who can verify information, previous
work experience, date of enrolling in a U.S. institution, the course to
be pursued and its date of termination.
A background check on each foreign student would be conducted
prior to the issuance of a visa in order to ensure that the student is
eligible for admission and not subject to a bar to reentry as a result
of any previous violation of immigration law.
H.R. 3229 would require U.S. educational institutions to provide
the following information about each foreign student enrolled: name,
address in country of origin and in the United States, date of
commencement and termination of studies, degree program and courses of
study. Educational institutions would submit quarterly reports on each
foreign student's status, and notify the Attorney General whenever a
foreign student fails to enroll, withdraws, or violates the terms of
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll reports that 65 percent of
Americans favor "temporarily sealing U.S. borders and stopping all
immigration in the United States during the war on terrorism." Tell
your Member of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 3229 now and also to order a
time-out on all immigration.