Prophetic words form members of Congress (04/98) : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Senate Panel OKs Immigration Bill

WASHINGTON (4/23/98) -- Legislation blocking implementation of tighter immigration controls at border crossings passed a key Senate hurdle Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration issues, approved the measure by voice vote. It orders tighter checks on all foreigners at airports while putting off such controls at land and sea entry points.

A bill the committee cleared with the border legislation would allow permanent U.S. residency for 42,000 people who fled Haiti after the 1991 overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., author of the border legislation, said unless the land provision was eliminated the U.S.-Canadian border would turn into a traffic nightmare. Some senators said they want it retained while delaying implementation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., vowed to fight Abraham's bill on the Senate floor. The controls provision, known as Section 110 of the 1996 immigration law, directs the Immigration and Naturalization Service, starting in October, to record departing and arriving foreigners so they can identify people overstaying visas. Of an estimated 5 million people living illegally in the United States, roughly 40 percent have overstayed visas. Abraham's bill, essentially an amendment to the 1996 law, allows implementation of the record system for airports but blocks it for land and sea crossings while the Justice Department studies feasibility and cost of such a system.

"The notion of keeping this requirement on the books simply is indefensible,'' said Abraham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary immigration subcommittee. "No one -- not INS, not the State Department, and not anyone in Congress -- has come up with a feasible way of implementing such a system.''

Northern border senators and representatives have rallied behind the Michigan senator. In 1996, the INS apprehended 1.5 million people trying to enter the country illegally, and only 40,000 were caught on the northern border.

Feinstein said Abraham's measure would "go back to nothing -- go back to studying (the problem) again.'' She voted with Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., and John Ashcroft, R-Mo., against sending the bill to the Senate for action. "The Abraham bill in my view effectively guts Section 110,'' Feinstein told the committee. "We have a country that doesn't know who comes in and who goes out.''

Last November, the House voted to delay the provision's implementation for two years -- until Oct. 1, 1999. Abraham said that delay is not enough.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, Abraham's counterpart in the House, called Abraham's legislation "a welcome mat to every terrorist and drug smuggler who is looking for an easy way into the United States.''

-- K (, September 19, 2001

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