Border Security Bill Could Near Senate Vote


The U.S. Senate has approved the bill that calls for a high-tech push to tighten the country’s borders. A version of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act passed the House of Representatives last year. 

According to Reuters news service, President George W. Bush promises to sign the bill.

Among other things, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) would be given an additional $150 million to “improve technology, expand the use of technology that improves border security, and to facilitate the flow of commerce at ports of entry by improving and expanding programs for pre-enrollment and preclearance.”

According to the article, the INS has been working on a program since 1996 to update the technology behind the system that tracks people coming in and out of the country. The first phase of that plan calls for an electronic database that contains all the data on incoming and outgoing passengers who aren’t required to have visas.

The schedule calls for the system to be in place for all airports and seaports by 2003; in the top 50 land borders by 2004; and for the entire country by 2005.

The new bill would bump up the technological requirements placed on the agencies that monitor the country’s borders. It calls for, among other things, a database by law enforcement agencies that could be made available to foreign service officers; a data system that can search databases for names and be able to recognize multiple versions of names; and the issuance of machine-readable, tamper-resistant travel documents with biometric identifiers by Oct. 26, 2003. Equipment and software capable of reading the new documents would also have to be installed at all U.S. ports of entry.

The bill also addresses a host of non-technological issues involved in border security.

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