Three years after the Sept. 11 attacks and following months of consideration, Congress passed the National Intelligence Reform bill. With passage of this legislation, the nation is now set to overhaul its intelligence agencies. I am encouraged by the work of the 108th Congress to move this bill with meaningful reforms forward, but also know we still have much work to do. A change of this magnitude doesn't happen quickly or easily, however this bill is a powerful step in the right direction.
Contained in this legislation are dozens of effective measures intended to fight terrorism and tighten security on the borders and elsewhere. The bill calls for at least 10,000 more Border Patrol agents over five years, and at least 4,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators over the same period. It upgrades air cargo and airport security, and includes the addition of new anti-terrorism criminal offenses and penalties. In addition, this bill ensures that changes in the intelligence hierarchy do not affect the chain of command in the military and the Defense Department, in effect, further protecting our soldiers and their current mission in the field.
Despite some very positive steps, I still believe that many of the provisions contained in the original bill which passed the House, but were left out of the Conference version that will go to the President's desk, are vital to the security of our nation. These provisions included requiring that drivers' licenses for foreign visitors expire on the same date that their visas expire. Other components included reforming the country's asylum laws that allow foreigners to arrive here and claim protections without having to prove persecution in their homeland. We can never assure the American people that they are safe from terrorists if our borders are penetrated as they are today by illegal immigrants who may bring with them plans or materials for use in future terrorist plots.
Unfortunately, because of the insistence of Senate Democrats, some of these important border security provisions aimed at preventing another 9/11-type attack, had to be dropped. We must work to address these weaknesses now before America's enemies utilize these vulnerabilities to carry out their deadly intentions. I will work to see that Congressional leaders and our President will enact these important provisions quickly into law this next session of Congress. This action is necessary to stop the next terrorists and to take the right steps to protect the American people.
I can only imagine the pain that the families of the 9/11 victims feel every day, and I know the passion they bring to this debate. We share their sense of loss, and we share their commitment to make America safer. While more work remains to keep our borders sealed off to terrorists, this bill is an important step in the right direction. We are now one step closer to having the security infrastructure necessary to better protect the American people, and I am committed to continuing this fight till our families, friends, neighborhoods and businesses are free from the threat of terror.
Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ-05) represents portions of northern New Jersey including Bergen, Sussex, Warren and Passaic counties.