A picture of Senator Jeff Sessions
Jefferson S.
Republican AL

About Sen. Jefferson
  • Keystone XL Pipeline Act—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Jeff Sessions

    Posted on 2015-01-12

    submit to reddit

    Read More about Keystone XL Pipeline Act--Motion to Proceed

    SESSIONS. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Entry-Exit Visa System Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, the attacks on the people of France demonstrate in the most chilling terms the threats posed to Western nations by those who are imbued with Islamic terrorism. While there are many factors that play into the spread of this jihadist ideology in the West, it is time for an honest and plain admission that our open immigration policies are ineffective and have failed to meet the minimum standards that are set by existing law in the United States.

    This is something I have been dealing with for quite a number of years--a decade really. We have laws that would improve dramatically our ability to identify and block terrorists from entering and staying in the country, but they are not funded and they are not [[Page S139]] carried out and it is unacceptable, as I will point out.

    Dozens of terrorists and terror plotters have been admitted to the United States on visas or are relying on broader networks to simply enter into our country, taking advantage of lax immigration policies. For instance, the 9/11 attackers all came here on visas. A visa is a document that allows an individual to come for a limited period of time and then return to their home country. This visa system is essential in a modern world, but it needs to be managed and carried out in an effective way.

    The Boston bombers came as asylees, people seeking asylum, while their mosque was linked to foreign nationals tied to ISIS and foreign terrorists.

    The individual behind the attempted Christmas bombing in Oregon was a refugee. We have a class of individuals we accept each year who claim to be refugees from foreign countries. This one was from Somalia.

    The recently foiled plot to bomb a courthouse and school in Connecticut was attempted by a Moroccan national who had a revoked student visa. Many individuals have visas to be students in the United States. We are not managing that well at all. This one had a revoked student visa. It was revoked because of information that came to the attention of officials, but no one made an effort or successfully attempted in any real way to find the individual so he might be deported.

    Al Qaeda operatives who were apprehended in Kentucky were on visas from Iraq.

    These are only some of the examples that are out there. These individuals use lax visa policies, flawed asylum policies, flawed refugee policies, and flawed border protection policies. In addition, we are not organized in a way that works effectively. In addition to that, the President of the United States has directed his ICE officers, his Citizenship and Immigration Services officers, and his Border Patrol officers, who are the key individuals in this system, to conduct their business in a way that guarantees failure. That is just the fact.

    The 9/11 Commission--we all remember that great Commission after the terrible attack on 9/11--zeroed in on our lax immigration policies. Among other things, the Commission demanded implementation of a biometric entry-exit visa system. What does that mean? That means a biometric system where people are identified effectively through fingerprints or some other identifier.

    I have been through this for years. Back when President Bush was President and we worked with Homeland Security, Governor Ridge was the Secretary of Homeland Security. I think at the end he was finally convinced, and I worked on him very hard. But he volunteered, the last day in office, to use a fingerprint biometric system. It should have already been done by the time President Bush left office, but it wasn't, and it hasn't been done yet. We need a system that works.

    By the way, police officers have in their cars all over America computer-type screens where they can stop someone on the road, they can ask them to put their hand on the screen, and it reads their fingerprints. It checks the National Crime Information Center to find out whether the person is wanted for murder in New York. He might have caught him in Texas. It lets the officer know whether there are warrants out for these individuals. This is the way the system works in our country, and we need to use it with regard to people who come here on visas.

    It is an outrage that this hasn't been done, completed fully, and made operational years ago. It is an outrage. It is in the law of the United States. Congress has funded money for this project and it has not yet been done. It will cost us in the future, as the 9/11 Commission has so warned. The 9/11 Commission demanded this system, and it is designed to track those entering and departing the United States on visas.

    By the way, almost half of the people, at least 40-plus percent now of individuals unlawfully in America entered on a visa. In other words, they didn't come across the border unlawfully. They came lawfully-- perhaps using false documents, but they got a visa. They came to the United States maybe lawfully, but they just did not return to their home country when the visa expired.

    My colleagues have to know no one is checking. We have no idea whether they left the country or stayed in the country. We do not have an operable exit visa system. This is so bizarre because it is not expensive. It can be implemented rapidly. It will work and give us valuable information that we must have if we are serious about this process, and we must be serious about the process.

    The individuals in France--I mentioned the ones in the United States--left the country, went through Yemen, apparently, were trained in some sort of terrorist camp, and came back and executed their violent acts in France. So we have to do a better job of this, and we can do it.

    President Obama's administration has refused to implement the entry- exit system as required by law. We have talked about this publicly and debated it for years. Just last year the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, in an evaluation of how well the recommendations they made back after 9/11 have been carried out--a 10-year review of how their report had been received and how much of it had been accomplished-- issued this written statement.

    Without exit-tracking, our government does not know when a foreign visitor admitted to the United States on a temporary basis has overstayed his or her admission.

    Here is the language. We put it on a chart because it is important that we understand this.

    Without exit-tracking, our government does not know when a foreign visitor admitted to the United States on a temporary basis has overstayed his or her admission. Had this system been in place before 9/11, we would have had a better chance of detecting the plotters before they struck. . . . There is no excuse for the fact that 13 years after 9/11 we do not have this much capability in place.

    Amen. That is exactly correct. That is from ``Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 Commission Report,'' Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, in 2014.

    In fact, the original report said this: The Department of Homeland Security, properly supported by the Congress, should complete, as quickly as possible, a biometric entry-exit screening system.

    That was the report from 2004. It is a very important report. They went to great length to help this Nation figure out what is the responsible thing to do to protect ourselves better from those attackers on 9/11, many of whom were visa overstayers. They didn't come across the border unlawfully; they came across on a lawful visa. Some of them I think had false documentation to get that visa, but they came on a visa, for the most part lawfully, and did not go home as they were required to go home. They overstayed their visa. Nobody knew they had overstayed. Nobody made an inquiry about it.

    The ``Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations,'' by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, 2011, said this: Full deployment of the biometric exit component of US-VISIT should be a high priority. Such a capability would have assisted law enforcement and intelligence officials in August and September 2001 in conducting a search for two of the 9/11 hijackers that were in the U.S. on expired visas.

    This would have helped. Indeed, of course, those of us who have some experience in law enforcement know that when you get to one or two of the guys, the whole scheme may get disrupted, and we can penetrate the organization and break it up and stop crime from occurring. To me, it is mind boggling, as the commission leaders have told us, that we haven't completed this.

    I am told there are forces that don't like the exit visa system. They think it might slow things down a little bit. First, this is not correct. When you come into the country, you are clocked in and you are biometrically fingerprinted. What would you have to do when you leave? Go to the airport, go in a certain line, go through, show your ticket, show your passport, put your hand on a biometric screener, you are read, and you are approved to leave. It is not going to take any massive amounts of time. One excuse after the other has slowed this down, and it is not acceptable. We have to do better.

    In fact, the administration has suspended enforcement of the visa system almost entirely. We have to understand, colleagues: If we don't have even an exit visa system where we know [[Page S140]] who left the country, how do we know who overstayed and who stayed in the country? Unless somebody overstays their visa and they are caught for speeding and the police officer identified that, I will ask colleagues, what happens? Under the policy of this President of the United States, directed to the lowest officers in America, nothing happens. If the individual does not commit a serious felony, they will not be processed for deportation, even though they have come to the country on a promise to leave on a certain date and flatly refused to do so.

    This is not acceptable. If we don't have a system that has integrity, then everybody gets the message pretty soon: Just get a visa, come to America, you never have to leave. If you don't get a felony charge against you, you are never going to be deported.

    This is the policy of this government at this very moment. It is hard for anybody to believe, but that is the truth. We have approximately 5 million visa overstays in the United States. But as the National ICE-- Immigration Customs Enforcement--officers Council president Chris Crane has explained: ICE agents are now prohibited from arresting illegal aliens solely on charges of illegal entry or visa overstay.

    What a dramatic statement that is. And not only visa overstays, they are prohibited from arresting and removing people who came across the border illegally. That is what he means by illegal entry or visa overstays.

    This of course removes a cornerstone of integrity in any law system. If we can't look people in the eye and say: We give you a visa, you have a 6-month visa, but at 6 months you have to return to your home country, and mean it, and say: Eventually you will be apprehended and deported if you don't--then the system has no integrity. That is where we are today.

    Unsurprisingly, ABC News reported that the Obama administration had lost track of 6,000 foreign students who had overstayed their visas and were of ``heightened concern.'' In other words, these 6,000 had some special concern in their background that made us worry about them, whether it was drugs or terrorism or whatever. Of course they have lost sight of them. They are not attempting to find them.

    So the head of the union representing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers, one of the three major components of the Department of Homeland Security dealing with immigration, Mr. Ken Palinkas, was explicit in his warning to us. It is remarkable what Mr. Crane has said and now what Mr. Palinkas has said: There is no doubt that there are already many individuals in the United States, on visas--expired or active--who are being targeted for radicalization or who already subscribe to radicalized views. Many millions come legally to the U.S. through our wide open immigration policy every year--whether as temporary visitors, lifetime immigrants, refugees, asylum- seekers, foreign students, or recipients of our ``visa waiver program'' which allows people to come and go freely. Yet our government cannot effectively track these foreign visitors and immigrants.

    This is the man whose officers do this job. They are the ones who approve the visas and manage this system.

    He went on to warn that the President's so-called Executive amnesty would make the situation radically worse, saying: I write today to warn the general public that this situation is about to get exponentially worse--and more dangerous. . . . Express your concern to your Senators and Congressmen before it is too late.

    It is a national security imperative to stop this Executive amnesty. It sends exactly the wrong message. What it says is that if you can get into America--through the border, by boat, by plane, on a visa--any way you get into this country and pass the border, you are not going to be asked to leave unless you commit some felony--some serious felony, for that matter. Many felonies don't qualify. And we have over 100,000 people who have committed serious felonies who have been released into America. We don't know where they are, and they are not going to be deported.

    We have to restore immigration enforcement, establish better controls and screening on immigration from high-risk regions of the world. We really should give more attention to that. It is perfectly legitimate.

    The visa system, the immigration system of the United States, should serve who? It should serve the interests of the American people. Somebody doesn't have a constitutional right to come to America. The decision is whether America feels like it is in its interests. We have always accepted a large number of people. In fact, we have the largest immigration numbers of any nation in the world. We admit 1 million a year lawfully. When they come from high-risk areas of the world, terrorist states, we should indeed give more scrutiny to those applicants.

    Census data shows that legal immigration to the United States from the Middle East is one of the largest and fastest growing categories of new admittances. For the national security of the United States, it is imperative that Congress block Executive amnesty and restore essential enforcement, basic bread-and-butter law enforcement. Anyone who claims to be concerned about our national security should be resolutely focused on this task. There is so much that can be done with relatively little difficulty if we have the leadership and will to get it done.

    It would be unthinkable for the President to veto the Homeland Security appropriations bill in order to continue this illegal and dangerous amnesty scheme during a time of growing threats abroad.

    Again, let me say that this: the entry-exit visa system is an unappreciated, important part of American immigration law. It is critical to the national security of the United States, as the 9/11 Commission has so stated on more than one occasion. We can do this. Why is it not being done? What forces, what special interests, are interceding between the people of the United States, the national interests, and their special interests that block this kind of system? We can make it work. It is not that hard. We need a biometric system, and that system should be founded on the fingerprint. It took us a number of years, but I think the government has finally concluded it must be the fingerprint for a lot of reasons, one of which is if somebody got a visa to the United States and they committed a murder, an armed robbery, a terrorist act, a major fraud, and a warrant was issued for their arrest--if you don't clock it in at the airport, who knows when they are leaving? So this would pick it up and would pick up any warrants that might be outstanding for those individuals anywhere in the United States that are put in the NCIC, National Crime Information Center.

    That is the way the system should work. It is long overdue. In the course of the discussions we will have in the weeks and months to come about the necessity of fixing a broken immigration system, the entry- exit visa system has to be implemented. It is long overdue. We can make it happen. It is not that expensive. It is relatively inexpensive, actually, and it will make us much safer in the process.

    I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

    Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. SESSIONS. I ask unanimous consent that the time allotted to each side and utilized be counted against both sides equally during quorum calls.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. SESSIONS. I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

  • submit to reddit
  • Register your constituent account to respond

    Constituent Register