TEXAS, May 20, 2013 — Citing the absence of a reliable system to track people coming and going as a major security flaw, Senators working on a bipartisan immigration bill have agreed to an amendment sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah that requires foreigners leaving the country through any of the nation’s 30 busiest airports to be fingerprinted.
In what seems to be a compromise to the implementation of a more expansive biometric system favored by many lawmakers, but deemed too expensive to include in the bill, Hatch’s amendment, which passed 13 to 5 in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, requires the nation’s 10 busiest airports to establish a fingerprinting system within two years after enactment of the immigration bill.
Within six years the system would have to be in place at the nation’s 30 busiest airports.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), whose amendment to fully implement a biometric screening system was rejected by the committee last week, was among the five who voted “no” on the amendment.
“The entire system, as current law requires, should be implemented,” Sessions said, in reference to Hatch’s amendment. “It’s a retreat from current law, a weakening of current law.”
Although a full-fledged biometric entry-exit system is favored by many senators, it has been deemed too expensive and unworkable to include in the bill. Current law already requires such a system to be in place, but the Department of Homeland Security has not implemented it.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the authors of the immigration bill, announced publicly that he regretted the failure of Sessions’ amendment and that he would continue to push for a biometric system to be put in place.
With his amendment, Hatch makes it clear that he believes there is a need for the U.S. to have a system in place that allows the government to track foreigners. What he doesn’t make clear, however, is exactly how fingerprinting immigrants and visitors exiting the U.S., will help the government track the estimated 40 percent of the 11 million immigrants already in the country, who have illegally overstayed their visas.
The Judiciary Committee is working through approximately 300 amendments, and expects a final vote on the bill by Wednesday night.
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