IMPROVING AMERICA'S SECURITY -- (Senate - March 08, 2007)
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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to support the amendment proposed by the Senator from Texas, Mr. Cornyn. It has been 5 1/2 years since the horrendous terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. Since that attack, many improvements have been made in the way law enforcement communities around the country are combating terrorism, but it is very important that we continue to give our law enforcement community every tool they need to protect Americans. Americans expect Congress to do everything possible to improve the Nation's security, and Senator Cornyn's amendment adds to the important and necessary tools needed by law enforcement to prosecute the war against terrorism.
I would like to take just a few minutes to touch on some of the important provisions that are included in this amendment. The first issue I would like to talk about is punishing those who recruit or assist terrorists.
For the first time, we will be able to target terrorist recruiters--those who seek out and try to persuade individuals to commit terrorist acts against the United States and our allies.
It is no secret that al-Qaida attempts to seek out individuals living within the United States who can operate freely here and who do not necessarily fit the profile of those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks to join their cadre of jihadists. Even the 9/11 Commission Report discusses al-Qaida's ability to recruit:
Mosques, schools, and boarding houses served as recruiting stations in many parts of the world, including the United States.
For example, an early bin Laden organization, al-Khifa, recruited American Muslims to fight in Afghanistan. Al-Khifa had offices in my own State of Georgia as well as Chicago, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Tucson.
The amendment also creates a new offense for aiding the family or associates of a terrorist in order to target those who give money to families of suicide bombers after such bombings. Any person convicted of doing any of these things should face severe punishment. This is not uncommon. We saw Saddam Hussein offering up to $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers in Palestine as a reward for their sons' and daughters' terrorist attacks. This type of support promotes and encourages suicide bombers and simply cannot be tolerated. The American people are probably shocked that these offenses are not already on the books. Support for this amendment will send a strong message that this country has not forgotten how September 11, 2001, changed this world and that we will do everything in our power to prosecute terrorists and those who support them.
A second key provision in this amendment deals with closing a loophole in the law that allows suspected terrorists to stay in the United States after their visas have been revoked on terrorist grounds.
In June of 2003, a GAO report revealed that suspected terrorists can and, in fact, do stay in the United States after their visas have been revoked because they are suspected of terrorist activity. After the loophole came to light, the GAO found that more than 100 people were granted visas that were later revoked because there was suspected terrorist activity.
Under current law, decisions to approve or deny visas by consular officers are nonreviewable and deemed final. However, if a visa is approved and the individual enters the United States and then the visa is revoked while that person is still in the United States, the revocation decision is reviewed by the U.S. courts. Giving an alien on U.S. soil the ability to appeal a revocation decision when it is based on terrorist-suspected grounds virtually annihilates the effectiveness of this antiterrorism tool.
To begin, visa revocations are not taken lightly, according to the State Department. A State Department spokesman made this comment:
A consular officer does not have the authority to revoke a visa based on suspected ineligibility, or based on derogatory information that is insufficient to support an ineligibility finding. A consular revocation must be based on an actual finding that the alien is ineligible for a visa.
In addition, each alien gets the opportunity to explain their case, so once a consular officer notifies an alien of his intent to revoke, the consular officer must give the alien the opportunity to show why the visa should not be revoked.
I ask my colleagues to recall the 9/11 Commission Report's finding on our flawed visa policies. We know that the 19 hijackers used 364 aliases and lied on their visa applications when they applied for 23 and obtained 22 visas. Allowing aliens to remain on U.S. soil with revoked visas is a national security concern, and this amendment will close this loophole in the law so they cannot do it again.
A third issue this amendment deals with is the detention of deportable aliens. The Supreme Court has limited the period of detention of deportable aliens to 6 months after a final order of removal is issued. As a result, when the difficulty in removing an alien lasts up to 6 months, the U.S. Government has to release the alien into the public. We have all heard the deplorable stories of some of the horrific acts committed by deportable aliens who were released into the United States after they were not removed from the country within the 6-month limit. This amendment would allow the Government to keep these aliens in custody until they can be removed and prevent them from harming American citizens.
I want to close by thanking my colleague from Texas for the work he has done on this amendment and his effort in making our country safer. This is what the American people want, expect, and deserve. This is the right thing to do, and I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
I yield the floor.