The United States' porous borders should be, at the very least, a major embarrassment to the most powerful nation in the world. Controlling U.S. borders should be a cornerstone of our anti-terrorism efforts.
U.S. immigration officials admit they don't have a clue regarding the whereabouts of many foreigners who entered the country on limited visas which have since expired. In an age when foreign enemies have made clear their willingness to use any means to spread death and destruction among our citizenry there's no excuse for such a lackadaisical attitude.
Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced a commendable procedure that will help tighten our borders. The plan calls for foreigners from all but 28 nations to get their fingerprints scanned and photographs taken when they enter and leave this country. The results of the inkless fingerprinting and photographing will immediately be checked against a national database for criminal backgrounds and terrorist lists.
The process, which takes only 10 to 15 seconds, will not bar visits from foreigners who are here to study, visit relatives or work. It will be a tool that can be used to provide a red flag on individuals who may do this nation harm. During a pilot program that ran earlier nearly two dozen foreigners, some with records as felons, were turned away or deported. A Homeland Security spokesman said that a similar program is expected to be installed at 50 land border crossing by the end of next year.
The 28 countries that are exceptions to this new enforcement are mostly European nations that are allowed more leeway regarding visas. This raises the concern terrorists might try to enter the U.S. with a passport from one of the favored nations but hopefully those favored nations are ones that have proven to be responsible and cooperative with U.S. security officials.
The new Homeland Security plan might not be a cure-all for our security concerns but it will help create a database from the 24 million visits (including some repeat visitors) by foreigners to the U.S. each year.
As Secretary Ridge points out the U.S. wants to welcome visitors who come to our shores for a legitimate and lawful purpose. The U.S. must be more than a paper tiger, however, If those visitors should not be allowed in or if they stay beyond the limits of their visa.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.