Congress seeks border fixes

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate have introduced legislation to fix border security problems and illegal immigration partially through the use of technology.

Among other things, the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act would require development and implementation of information-sharing initiatives; coordination among international, federal, state and local governments; use of technology; and other actions to improve border security.

It would establish a Border Security Advisory Committee comprised of stakeholders from the border regions to provide advice to Homeland Security Department officials. The bill would also encourage multilateral partnerships to establish a North American security perimeter and improve border security south of Mexico.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) are sponsoring the bill.

“This is a comprehensive bill that doesn’t try to solve the hemorrhaging immigration problem with a Band-Aid. This bill is major surgery,” Kolbe said in a prepared statement. “The majority of the illegal immigration is happening in Arizona, and I will not stand by and let southern Arizona be the doormat for this country’s failed immigration policy.”

“We have spent billions of dollars on border enforcement,” McCain said. “We have sent more – but still not enough – federal agents to the border equipped with sophisticated technology. We have worked to harden the border in key places. And yet, illegal immigration continues.”

In addition to establishing a new worker visa program and several other immigration policy related reforms, the bill would create a new electronic work authorization system to replace the paper-based Form I-9, which all U.S. employers must complete and retain for everyone they hire. Form I-9 records all document information presented by employees to verify their eligibility and identities.

The bill would require travelers' biometric verification by upgrading immigration-related documents and the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, which screens international visitors and collects biographic and biometric information from some international visitors at 115 airports, 15 seaports and in the secondary inspection areas at the 50 busiest land ports.

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