Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, many asked how the hijackers were able
to enter the United States and live there undetected while plotting
Department reported that at least nine of the 19 hijackers were
in the United States legally, three had remained in the country
even though their visas had expired, and that the government did
how the other seven entered the United States. This discovery
cast a spotlight on the Immigration and Naturalization Service,
the government agency charged with tracking immigrants and enforcing
scrutiny of the INS exposed what experts said were weaknesses
in the agency's ability to effectively determine whether a visitor
remains in the U.S. after his or her visa expires. The Justice
Department's Inspector General Glenn Fine testified before Congress
on Oct. 11, 2001 that the system identifying those who overstay
their visas "does not produce reliable data, either in the
aggregate or on individual nonimmigrants." He said the system's
errors stem from "missing departure records and errors in
processing of the records."
Responsibilities Moved To Two New Agencies
what proponents said was an effort to strengthen the government's
ability to patrol its borders while better meeting the needs of
immigrants and overseas visitors, the 2002 Homeland Security Act
separated the Immigration and Naturalization Service's two roles.
new structure, two new agencies under the Department of Homeland
Security assumed the duties previously assigned to the INS, which
had been part of the Justice Department.
new department, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
is responsible for immigration, including issuing green cards
and handling asylum requests.
The INS' enforcement
responsibilities were transferred to the Homeland Security Department's
Border and Transportation Security division.
Measures Already Enacted
government already has moved to tighten U.S. immigration policy.
The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, signed
into law by President Bush in May 2002, will be implemented by
the new Homeland Security Department. It requires that foreign
visitors possess tamper-proof travel documents with biometric
information, such as retinal scans or fingerprints. The U.S. Immigration
system had not requested such information from the vast majority
of visitors from other countries.
addition, as part of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, the
FBI and CIA will be required to share information with the State Department, which
The law also
calls for the development of a computerized means of tracking
foreign students. This system, the Student and Exchange Visitor
Information System, began in January 2003. Attorney General John
Ashcroft said in a news conference in May 2002 that the system
would help verify that foreign students are indeed enrolled in
school and thus would close a hole in the country's immigration
system. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., argued for increased
tracking of foreign students, she used the example of Sept. 11
hijacker Hani Hanjour, who was enrolled in an English language
course that he never actually attended.
the Homeland Security Department also include the development
of an entry-exit system to record the arrival and departure of
foreigners. INS rules proposed on Dec. 31, 2002 require that airlines,
cargo ships, cruise ships, and most other vessels carrying crew
or passengers provide detailed information on all of their passengers
to immigration officials. The lists are designed to help ensure
enforcement of U.S. Immigration laws.
The USA Patriot
Act, enacted in October 2001, includes additional measures aimed
at exerting increased control over the nation's borders. As part
of the act, the Justice Department has already begun the first
phase of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System.
This work was started by the INS and continued after its responsibilities
were transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security on
March 1, 2003.
National Security Entry-Exit Registration System and the Student and Exchange
Visitor Information System have been integrated into a larger Department of Homeland
Security initiative -- the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology
system that was launched on April 29, 2003. The system is scheduled to begin its
first phase of operation at international air and sea entry points by the end
11, 2002 the INS began fingerprinting nonimmigrant aliens who they say pose a
potential security risk. The estimated 100,000 people per year who will be part
of this program are also required to periodically register with the INS. According
to a Justice Department statement issued in August 2002, this system "is
the first step toward the development of a comprehensive entry-exit system applicable
to virtually all foreign visitors."