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Hearing To Evaluate the U.S.VISIT Program, Testimonies Before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security January 28, 2004

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Contact: Liz Tobias
202-226-9600

The Infrastructure and Border Subcommittee Holds Hearing To Evaluate the U.S.VISIT Program

Homeland Security Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA) made the following points during his opening statement before the Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security today:

“I am especially pleased to welcome back Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson to the Committee. I, along with many on this Committee, know him as an esteemed colleague and friend. We also know him as the extraordinary capable leader who is well equipped to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on border and transportation security issues.

“Among other accomplishments, his tenure has seen the successful implementation of the first phase of the US VISIT program on schedule and, indeed, ahead of schedule with respect to the use of biometric identifiers. The Department should be commended for meeting the statutory requirement, and deadline, for an automated entry and exit system. All air and sea port passenger arrival, and departure information is now collected and processed through the US VISIT system. This gives us the ability, for the first time in our history, to create a list of those who overstay their visas.

“The US VISIT program is a work in progress, but it is moving ahead very rapidly. During the recently concluded pilot phase, at Atlanta’a Hartsfield Airport, US VISIT stopped several dangerous criminals, and others, from entering the United States.

“US VISIT is adding integrity to our immigration process. Just as importantly, it is consistent with maintaining a defining American tradition—opening our nation to legitimate travel, business, and tourism. In just 15 seconds per visitor, US VISIT adds a layer of protection to our border security system and permits our border protection officers to focus more attention on those that warrant closer scrutiny.

“But US VISIT is work in progress. The US VISIT program has not yet integrated all of the existing law enforcement and terrorist databases into its search capabilities. This is a complex task and it needs additional attention. There are also many questions about the eventual rollout of the US VISIT program at all of our land ports of entry. Current law requires that DHS expand the entry/exit program to the top 50 high-traffic land border ports by December 21, 2004; and the remaining entry points by December 31, 2005. Is this a realistic goal? Do we have the technology, and other essential infrastructure in place, to accommodate this plan without severely compromising the free flows of goods and people?

“Our country faces no greater challenge today than maintaining over 300 U.S. Ports of entry for potential terrorist crossings while, at the same time, facilitating the legitimate trade and travel that are hallmarks of our free society.

“The U.S. VISIT program is designed to meet this challenge and our witnesses today will give us a report on the progress we are making.”



Testimonies:

Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security The Honorable Asa Hutchinson - January 28, 2004: Undersecretary, Border and Transportation Security Directorate, Department of Homeland Security

Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security Ms. Kathleen Campbell Walker - January 28, 2004: Testifying on behalf of American Immigration Lawyers Association and Foreign Trade Association, Inc.

Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security The Honorable Maura Harty - January 28, 2004: Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State

Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security Mr. James May - January 28, 2004: President & CEO, Air Transport Association

Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security Mr. Dennis Carlton - January 28, 2004: Director of Washington Operations, International Biometric Group