Gang of Eight Bill would Weaken Homeland Security and Immigration Enforcement

Tuesday morning’s Judiciary Committee mark-up confirms that, if enacted, the Gang of Eight Immigration bill, S.744, would weaken homeland security and immigration enforcement. The committee rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that would have required the use of a biometric entry and exit system at all air, sea and land ports of entry. This requirement already exists , having been enacted by Congress 17 years ago, but like so many other enforcement promises, has never been kept.

The Gang of Eight bill only requires the use of biographical information upon exiting the United States, and only at air and sea ports, but not land border crossings. The background information below from Sen. Sessions’ office explains why these protections that would be removed under S.744 are important to our homeland security:

Sessions’ amendment would require the use of a biometric entry and exit system at all ports of entry before the adjustment to LPR status (after RPI status has already been granted).

After 17 years and multiple acts of Congress requiring biometric exit, it still has not been implemented despite the strong urging of the 9/11 commission as being needed for our nation’s security. Instead, S. 744 undermines this congressional requirement and does not call for a biometric system but a much-weaker and fraud-prone biographic system and, further, exempts land ports of entry.

We already know that anything less than what is in current law will not be effective. GAO has stated that a biographic exit system, like the one set forth in S. 744, will only hinder efforts to reliably identify overstays, and that without a biometric exit system, “DHS cannot ensure the integrity of the immigration system by identifying and removing those people who have overstayed their original period of admission—a stated goal of US-VISIT.”

This is a serious problem because, as the Government Accountability Office reported, about 40 percent of the illegal population in this country is composed of those who have overstayed their visas. Most of the 9/11 hijackers entered on nonimmigrant visas and several overstayed their period of admission undetected by law enforcement. Since then, at least 36 individuals who overstayed their visas have been convicted of terrorism-related charges, including Amine el-Khalifi, who attempted to bomb the U.S. Capitol last year.

Additional Detail:
Seventeen years ago in 1996, Congress first adopted a requirement for an entry-exit system because we knew that our government couldn’t accurately track who was entering and leaving the United States. (Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act)

In 2000, Congress passed another law requiring the entry-exit system to be implemented at all air, sea, and land ports of entry. (Immigration and Naturalization Service Data Management Improvement Act of 2000)

Again in 2000, when amending the Visa Waiver Program, Congress required a “fully automated entry and exit control system” to record entry and departure information for all aliens participating in the program. Congress also required the passports be machine-readable. (Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act)

After 9/11, Congress once again demanded the implementation of an entry-exit system through passage of the PATRIOT Act. The intent of Congress was crystal-clear:

“In light of the terrorist attacks perpetrated against the United States on September 11, 2001, it is the sense of the Congress that the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of State, should fully implement the integrated entry and exit data system for airports, seaports, and land border ports of entry… with all deliberate speed and as expeditiously as practicable.

Importantly, as part of the PATRIOT Act, Congress demanded that the entry-exit system be biometric.

According to DHS’s own website: “Unlike names and dates of birth, which can be changed, biometrics are unique and virtually impossible to forge. Collecting biometrics helps the U.S. government prevent people from using fraudulent documents to enter the country illegally. Collecting biometrics also helps protect your identity in the event your travel documents are lost or stolen.”

In 2002, Congress reiterated its demand for a biometric entry-exit system at all ports of entry of the United States, requiring that DHS issue aliens “only machine-readable, tamper-resistant visas and other travel and entry documents that use biometric identifiers.” It also required that the government install biometric readers and scanners “at all ports of entry in the United States.” (Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act)

In 2002, DHS initiated the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program, or US-VISIT, to develop this system. Two years later, US-VISIT was collecting biometric data on aliens entering the U.S.

In 2004, Congress again demanded a biometric entry exit system through the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004:
“Congress finds that completing a biometric entry and exit data system as expeditiously as possible is an essential investment in efforts to protect the United States by preventing the entry of terrorists.”

“The Secretary of Homeland Security shall develop a plan to accelerate the full implementation of an automated biometric entry and exit data system.”

Currently, an entry capability is operating at approximately 300 (115 airports, 14 seaports, and 154 of 170 land ports) U.S ports of entry. However, a corollary exit program has never gotten beyond the pilot stage, despite widespread congressional support. Because of that, it is impossible to know exactly how many aliens have overstayed their period of admission.

After years of assurances that DHS was working toward implementing this system, it appears that they have quietly terminating the last pilot program – and there are several over the years – in 2011. The President’s FY2013 budget proposal does not specifically request money for biometric exit, and cuts $73 million for border security fencing, infrastructure, and technologies, and $6.7 million for technology modernization. DHS is now implementing a biographic exit system instead, which GAO has said is insufficient.

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Content written by Federation for American Immigration Reform staff.


  1. avatar
    sherri palmer on

    We should email or call the gang of idiots and tell them that anything they have written will not be considered because they are acting for foreigners and they are corrupt for not acting in the interests of Americans. illegals from south of border have abused our sovereignty for decades, and assume that we will always give them amnesty! I think we should not give anyone ever again from south of border amnesty nor any form of entry into this country because they are very well represented in this country by their numbers and lets face it, they are not big on birth control and it would be a good idea to allow Europeans in but legally.

  2. avatar
    nihad mohamed on

    I can see a huge conspiracy against USA wellbeing,,this gang what are they planning for USA future,,, they only wants to pass the amnesty ,,,they don’t care about our homeland security,,,,the devastating economic problems,,,health ,,,education,,unemployed problems we are all suffering from !!!;???? The gang of eight are traitors ,,,they must be fully investigated ,,a lot will be discovered from conspiracy to illegal payments under the table,,,,please open these gang files and search for the unhidden behind their amnesty,,they are traitors,,traitors,,search for conspiracy’s

    • avatar
      John Winthrop on

      nihad mohamed it is simple………….these people have been abused and we have created wealth with them………….the same way you had an opportunity to come here….the good ones deserve it as much as you had yours………….to have a fruitful life in the US.

  3. avatar

    I’ve been watching the hearings and I don’t see FAIR represented – and they represent the American people much more so than any elected officials. There are no “liberal” states out there on this issue – even in CA the people voted to end all funding to illegals- Prop 209 – many years ago. However, it was overturned (as was democracy) by the courts.

  4. avatar

    What happened to all the Republicans in gov’t? They used to be anti- illegals – now, they are invisible.

  5. avatar

    the president of mexico,ordered a border mexico guatemala,we americans have to keep all open,can you tell me the reason.You people are full of stupidity

  6. Pingback: Immigration Clearinghouse - Senate Judiciary Committee Rejects Biometric Exit/Entry Amendment

  7. avatar

    Thirteen years after 9-11, we still have no idea of who is here and who has left the country when they were supposed to. I was watching a show a couple weeks ago and some commentator was discussing the guy who covered up for the Boston bombers and had come back into the country, even though he was no longer eligible because he was here on a student visa and was no longer attending classes. She just dismissed it because he hadn’t committed any major crime. In other words, simply being ineligible to stay is NO BIG DEAL.

    Is it any wonder we have a “broken system”? And this present “reform” will up legal immigration by 50% AND immediately allow in the five million people in the family reunification “backlog”. {You know, the ones that are victims because we won’t hand them a visa on demand.} Does anyone seriously think we are going to do ANY kind of background check on that number of people, when we are not doing it NOW?

    • avatar
      John Winthrop on

      Interesting Leland I thought you said our system was fine and it was never broken!!