Senate Approves Border Security and Visa Reforms

Washington, D.C.- The U.S. Senate today approved by a 97 - 0 vote a bipartisan security bill that tightens visa screening, border inspections, and tracking of foreigners. The House, which has strongly supported this measure, is expected to shortly take it up for a vote. The "Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2001" (H.R. 3525) ensures that our immigration policies are in line with our goal of preventing terrorism. The bill includes needed reforms that deter terrorism by developing layers of protection both outside and within the United States.

"We need smart and effective measures to increase our security and isolate terrorism without isolating America," said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of AILA. "This legislation enhances border security while preserving the cross-border flow of commerce and people."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) commends Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Brownback (R-KS), Kyl (R-AZ), and Feinstein (D-CA) for their leadership on this important measure.

Among other things, the bill will:

Help provide people on the front line with the training, staff and funding they need to do the job. The bill authorizes increased staffing and funding at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the State Department. It also provides necessary training for personnel at both agencies.

Get timely, accurate information to the people who decide who can enter our country. The bill mandates the sharing of intelligence and law enforcement data with the INS and State Department on a real-time basis so the agencies can identify high-risk individuals who seek to enter our country.

Enhance our security by working with Canada and Mexico to create a North American Security Perimeter. A North American Security Perimeter would bolster security through law enforcement coordination and intelligence sharing, reducing the chance that someone wishing to do us harm would travel to a neighboring country and then cross by land into the U.S.

While the measure includes many long overdue changes, it also poses challenges to our country, the Congress, federal agencies, and the American people. Given the bill's ambitious deadlines, it is critical that the Administration and Congress provide the federal agencies with the staffing and funding levels they need to implement these new security measures.

"The bill is a solid first step toward regulating the flow of goods and people into this country while recognizing the importance of immigration and commerce to the nation," said Butterfield. "Now that the bill has passed, the next step is to reform our immigration system through bilateral discussions with Mexico. By facilitating legal immigration, both countries will be able to focus their resources on those who would do us harm, rather than those who come to fill legitimate labor needs or reunite with their families."

"We strongly urge the House to continue their support for this initiative by taking up this bill with all due haste," concluded Butterfield.


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