October 12th, 2005 16:43 EST
Immigration is Still a Problem for the United States
Last month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced to expand the US VISIT program’s biometric entry procedures to additional land border ports of entry to Canada and Mexico. Such entry procedures of the program have been in place in the secondary inspection areas of the 50 busiest land border ports of entry in the United States since Dec. 29, 2004. The program is also used at 115 airports and 15 seaports as well.
Jim Williams, director of the US VISIT program at the Department of Homeland Security notes these changes will benefit the United States in the long-term. “By moving ahead with the scheduled expansion of US VISIT to these additional land border ports of entry, we are taking the next step toward achieving our long-term and comprehensive vision of 21st century immigration and border management system,” he said.
The US VISIT program applies to all visitors who apply for entry with a non-immigrant visa, including those using a Border Crossing Card to travel beyond the border zone or for more than 30 days. The process includes Customs and Border Protection officers collecting digital, inkless finger scans, as well as taking a digital photo of the visitor.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a six-point agenda designed to ensure the Department’s policies, operations, and structures are developed best to address potential threats—both present and future—that face the United States.
He said, “Our Department must drive improvement with a sense of urgency. Our enemy constantly changes and adapts, so we as a Department must be nimble and decisive.”
- His six-point agenda will guide the Department of Homeland Security in the future and will result in changes that will: Increase overall preparedness, particularly for catastrophic events;
- Create better transportation security systems to move people and cargo more securely and efficiently;
- Strengthen border security and interior enforcement and reform immigration processes;
- Enhance information sharing with our partners;
- Improve DHS financial management, human resource development, procurement and information technology; and
- Realign the DHS organization to maximize mission performance.
Earlier this year, he mandated that Visa Waiver Program countries would be now required to produce passports with digital photographs by Oct. 26. On this date, all WVP countries will be required to present an acceptable plan to begin issuing integrated circuit chips—otherwise known as e-passports—within one year. The announcement comes; as such changes are required to travel to the United States. The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 requires that any passport issued after Oct. 26, 2005, must include a biometric identifier based on standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
“The electronic passport is the path to secure and streamlined travel among Visa Waiver Program countries,” said Chertoff. “These passport requirements will maintain and strengthen the integrity of the Visa Waiver Program in a manner consistent with congressional intent and international standards. We are pleased by the progress of many Visa Waiver countries in complying with these requirements and we look forward to working with all participating countries toward their speedy and complete adoption.”
The 27 countries participating in the VWP include: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
In a press conference with Interior Minister of Mexico Santiago Creel, Chertoff said, “We have much work to do ahead, we’ve accomplished a lot,” noting the importance of accomplishments of both parties.
Minister Creel said through dialogue, both Mexico and the United States have been able to assess goals that have been attainable. “We have worked under a vision of shared responsibility, with a clear aim to prevent international terrorism…we now have a more modern, more efficient and better secured common border,” Creel said.
However, Creel was strong to say that he believes Mexicans should have some rights in the United States. “We need to reorder the immigration status so that Mexican immigrants who come to work in the United States in legal jobs have the proper documentation that they need, and then that they may return to Mexico so we can have a circular process that will be beneficial for both Mexico and the United States and the U.S. economy,” Creel said. As of June 26, 2005, the Department of Homeland Security has mandated travelers from 27 VWP countries that they must have a machine-readable passport to enter the United States without a visa, as mandated by Congress.
“The machine-readable passport benefits foreign visitors as much as it does homeland security,” said Randy Beardsworth, Acting under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security. “With one fast swipe, front line officers can pull up the information that they need to process legitimate travelers quickly. At the same time, this immediate information access enables our officers to focus even more on identifying and interdicting potential threats.”
He added, “By ensuring that travelers possess secure documents, such as the passport, Homeland Security will be able to conduct more effective and efficient interviews at our borders.” '
Nearly two-thirds of illegal aliens lack a high school degree, which is the primary reason they create a fiscal deficit, resulting in low incomes and tax payments. Nearly 8 to 10 million illegal aliens currently preside in the United States.
Seven House Republicans have called for a get-tough assault on illegal immigration, submitting legislation that would subject illegal immigrants to felony jail sentences, as well as imposing stiffer fines and jail time on their employers.
Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona, described the 115-page proposal as 'a call to action' to overturn decades of lax federal enforcement on millions of illegal immigrants and the employers who hire them. “We must send a different message -- zero tolerance of illegal immigration,” Hayworth said.
The measure calls for:
Spending $2.5 billion immediately to purchase force-multiplying technology, such as cameras, radar, and unmanned aerial vehicles for the Border Patrol.
Increasing the penalty for hiring undocumented workers to $50,000 per worker and up to five years in jail. Ending the practice of granting citizenship to any child born in the United States.
It also calls for deploying military forces to help the Border Patrol keep illegal immigrants out. More than 11 million illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico, are believed to be living in the United States, drawn by wages that are often 10 times higher than salaries in their native countries.
In a provision that could invite a constitutional challenge, the bill would end the practice of granting U.S. citizenship to any child born in the United States, unless at least one of the parents is in the country legally. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution declares that all people born or naturalized in the United States, 'and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,' are U.S. citizens.
Hayworth and his allies said the measure, which has at least 23 Republican co-sponsors, underscores the need for tough enforcement provisions as Congress considers a far-reaching overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. They denounced proposed immigrant guest-worker programs as a form of amnesty that would reward illegal behavior.
The measure would give illegal immigrants 30 days to leave the country voluntarily. Those who remained would be committing a felony and face up to a year in jail. The bill allows a defense for 'exceptional or extremely unusual hardship.'
Hayworth's bill also aims to cut off job opportunities that draw illegal immigrants, increasing fines against employers who hire illegal workers from $10,000 to $50,000. Jail terms for employers would be increased from six months to a maximum five years. President Bush may introduce a new immigration initiative within the next two months, according to news accounts, possibly calling for a modified version of a guest-worker program he unveiled more than a year ago.
Two major bills are under consideration in the Senate. Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona are calling for the creation of a temporary-worker program that would require the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States to return home before being eligible to apply.
A bill from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., would allow illegal immigrants to stay in the United States as guest workers by paying fines of up to $2,000. The participants would also be allowed to apply to become permanent legal residents.
In a closed Congressional briefing during the last week of September, an internal investigator said that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) is in disarray, with employees facing thousands of charges of misconduct and having to make decisions on letting in foreigners without knowing whether there are national security risks.