9-11 Commission Finds That Progess Slow on U.S. Visit Border Security Program
August 30, 2004
Members of the bipartisan 9-11 Commission urged the federal government to improve and speed up the introduction of the US VISIT system August 24 in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The system must identify all who enter and exit the country they said. Mayors have expressed concern that a hasty introduction of the system at border ports of entry without local involvement will have a detrimental effect on international trade movement and cross'border transportation and commerce.
At the 72nd Annual Conference of Mayors in Boston this past June, Mayors unanimously passed Resolution No. 52: Expressing Concern of the United States Conference of Mayors about Implementation of the U.S.-VISIT Program at Border Cities and Border Ports of Entry. The resolution requests the Secretary of Homeland Security or his designee to consult with border cities about how the current U.S.-VISIT system is being implemented in order to ensure greater ease of movement across the U.S., Mexican, and Canadian borders. The full text of the resolution, sponsored by Laredo Mayor Betty Flores and Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick can be read online at usmayors.org/uscm/resolutions/72nd_conference/international_01.asp.
U.S. VISIT was created with a comprehensive entry and exit tracking system in mind as part of the 2002 Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act which includes the use of biometric identifiers. U.S. VISIT is the acronym for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program. The program, already introduced at international airports, monitors entry and exit movements of non-US nationals in and out of the country. However, there is no plan in place yet to screen Canadian and Mexican travelers who count in the millions and make up the bulk of cross'border travelers, fueling border area economies and facilitating nationally important cross'border trade and transportation. Implementation of US VISIT at border crossings and overland ports'of-entry, originally set for the end of the year, has been delayed.
Vice President of the Commission, Former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton described the system as "fundamental" to the interdiction of terrorists and called for the accelerated development of the program.