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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions S. 205

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

S. 205. A bill to authorize the issuance of immigrant visas to, and the admission to the United States for permanent residence of, certain scientists, engineers, and technicians who have worked in Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, on October 7, 2002, the President of the United States said something very important about United Nations inspections in Iraq. He said: "Clearly, to actually work, any new inspections .    .    . will have to be very different.    .    .    . To ensure that we learn the truth, the regime must allow witnesses to its illegal activities to be interviewed outside the country—and these witnesses must be free to bring their families with them so they are all beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein's terror and murder. And inspectors must have access to any site, at any time, without pre-clearance, without delay, without exceptions."

The President was right on the money about inspections. This is how to get the information the world needs on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Inspections are vital to stripping him of those banned weapons.

The United Nations responded properly to the President's challenge. On November 8, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1441, which provided: .    .    . that Iraq shall provide UNMOVIC and the IAEA immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect, as well as immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted, and private access to all officials and other persons whom UNMOVIC or the IAEA wish to interview in the mode or location of UNMOVIC's or the IAEA's choice pursuant to any aspect of their mandates; further decides that UNMOVIC and the IAEA may at their discretion conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, may facilitate the travel of those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq, and that, at the sole discretion of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, such interviews may occur without the presence of observers from the Iraqi government."

The inspectors are given unprecedented authority. But how are they to implement it? Where will those weapons scientists and their families go, once they've told the truth about Saddam's weapons programs? They can't go home again. And at least in the short run, there will be no safe haven in the region for people who reveal Saddam's most terrible secrets.

Maybe some can go to Europe, although both al Qaeda cells and Saddam's agents have operated there. Maybe some can go to Canada, or to South America.

If the United States wants the world to show resolve in dealing with Saddam Hussein, however, then we must take the lead in admitting those people who have the courage to betray Saddam's nuclear, chemical, biological or missile programs. We have a large country in which to absorb those people, and, for all our problems, we have the best law enforcement and security apparatus to guard them.

What we do not have is an immigration system that readily admits large numbers of persons who were involved with weapons of mass destruction, have aided a country in the sop-called "axis of evil," and are bringing their families. I introduced legislation last October, therefore, to admit to our country those personnel, and their families, who give critical and reliable information on Saddam's programs to us, to the United Nations, or to the International Atomic Energy Agency. On November 20, the Senate passed an amended version of that bill, S. 3079, with the strong support of the Administration; but there was not enough time for the House of Representatives to act on the legislation.

Two months have passed since inspections were resumed in Iraq. The new inspectors are gaining experience, as well as actionable intelligence from the United States and other countries. They are beginning to find unreported weapons; and every weapon destroyed is a weapon that will never be used to cause mass destruction or to attack U.S. forces.

But inspectors have had a hard time getting truthful information from the Iraqis they interview. Saddam Hussein terrorizes his people, including his weapons scientists, so effectively that they are afraid to be interviewed in private, let alone outside the country. They know that even the appearance of cooperation could be a death sentence for themselves or their families.
To overcome this obstacle, and to discover and dismantle Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, UNMOVIC and the IAEA must interview relevant persons securely and with their families protected, even if they protest publicly against this treatment. Hans Blix may dislike running "a defection agency," but that could be the only way to obtain truthful information about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. The protests of those interviewed can actually be helpful, as they prevent Saddam from knowing which of his personnel may be willing to tell the truth once they and their families are given a secure environment.

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The United States must help UNMOVIC and the IAEA to create that secure environment. So, today I am re-introducing the Iraqi Scientists Immigration Act.

I am joined by my esteemed colleague on the Judiciary Committee, Senator SPECTER of Pennsylvania, who co-sponsored the original bill, and also by the chairmen of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee Senator LUGAR of Indiana and Senator HATCH of Utah. I have been assured, moreover, that the Administration remains eager to see this bill enacted. This bill is not political. Rather, it is a bipartisan effort to help the President succeed in forcing Iraq to destroy all its weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

I urge my colleagues to support quick action on this legislation. Iraqis will not come forward unless we offer protection to them and their families. Those who are willing to provide truthful information will merit our protection. And their information will help disarm Saddam Hussein; it will save lives if we have to go to war; and it could even help us to disarm Saddam without a war.

Current law includes several means of either paroling non-immigrants into the United States or admitting people for permanent residence, notwithstanding their normal inadmissibility under the law. These are very limited provisions, however, and they will not suffice to accommodate hundreds of Iraqi scientists and their families.

The legislation that I am re-introducing, the "Iraqi Scientists Immigration Act of 2003," will permit the Attorney General, on a case-by-case basis in coordination with the Secretary of State and the Director of Central Intelligence, to admit a foreigner and his family if such person: has worked in an Iraqi program to produce weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them; is willing to supply or has supplied critical and reliable information on that program to an agency of the United States Government; may be willing to supply or has supplied such information to United Nations or IAEA inspectors; and will be or has been placed in danger as a result of providing such information.

The Attorney General will also have the authority to give legal permanent resident status to persons who provide the promised information.

Finally, this legislation will be limited to the admission of 500 scientists, plus their families. If it works and we need to enlarge the program, we can do so.

The important thing to do now is to give our country the initial authority, and to give United Nations inspectors the ability to reassure Saddam's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile experts that they and their families will be protected if they help the world to bring those programs down.

President Bush, other world leaders, and the inspectors in Iraq are trying to disarm a tyrant whose arms programs make him a danger to world peace. And they are trying to do this without going to war, even as we prepare to wage that war if necessary. We owe it to the inspectors to give them every chance to succeed. We owe it to the President to give him the tools he needs to help those inspectors. We owe it to Iraq's people and its neighbors to do everything we can to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programs. And we owe it to our own people to do all we can to achieve that end peacefully, and with international support.

This bill is a small, but vital step toward those ends. I urge my colleagues to give it their immediate attention and support.

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