NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Terrorism Spurs Immigration Reform

December 28, 2001

Immigration fraud has been widespread, say observers. Foreign nationals have long been slipping across the U.S. border with bogus papers, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) hasn't kept tabs on the estimated two million foreigners in the United States who have overstayed their visas.

  • But the U.S.A. Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy, requires the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department and the INS to share more data, which will make it easier to stop watchlisted terrorists at the border.
  • And the INS has started providing information for the FBI's crime database about aliens who have received final deportation orders but failed to show up for their exit trips; if they show up in the legal system -- even for a minor traffic offense--they can be nabbed and booted.
  • The Justice Department has announced plans for stepped up legal enforcement -- and recently indicted Tyson Foods for conspiring to smuggle alien workers in the largest such case in history.

Reformers also want a rollback of rules like the congressionally mandated 45-min. cap on how long arriving passengers can be inspected when they arrive in the U.S. And Congress may consider a proposal to split the INS into two agencies, one that would perform service functions like processing citizenship papers and another that would concentrate on enforcement.

A sweeping new border-security bill passed the House of Representatives but died in the Senate last week. The bill is expected to be reintroduced and to pass next year.

Source: Adam Cohen, "Immigration," Time, December 31, 2001.

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