Better control of visas is urgently needed

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

U.S. Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri is leading a bipartisan effort to tighten requirements for obtaining visas to enter this country.

This is an overdue development that will win much applause from the great majority of Americans.

The Bond proposal would better coordinate background checks for foreign visa applicants and set up a sophisticated tracking system for after they arrive in this country.

"This nation has now seen the terrible dangers associated with failing to enforce visa deadlines," said Bond.

At a news conference with Bond and Democratic supporters of the bill, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, held up four pages chronicling the multiple U.S. entries and exits of sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted of plotting the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and other landmarks. Describing the current situation, Snowe said:

"Now we have a situation where no law requires agencies like the FBI and CIA to share information on dangerous aliens applying for either immigrant or non-immigrant visas. Think about what that means -- we know that at least 16 of the 19 suspected hijackers entered the U.S. on non-immigrant visas."

The senators' proposal, which they hope to include in anti-terrorism legislation, would put in place automated entry and exit tracking, and visas would contain digital readings of the holders' thumbprint or facial screening.

This certainly sounds like a well-thought-out proposal.

Perusing its features, we perceive none of the civil-liberties concerns that have slowed passage of others of the Bush administration's for dealing with terrorism.

These foreigners are on our shores at our sufferance, and tracking them with state-of-the-art technology must become a reality, especially when it is now known that some tiny few of them will use our very openness as a society against us.

Good for Bond for taking the lead on this.

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