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"For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons."

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Judiciary Chairman Sensenbrenner: Intel Bill ‘Worse Than Current Law’ on Border Security

“For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.”

Floor Statement by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.) on Intelligence Bill, December 7, 2004:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the conference report. The House bill not only reformed our intelligence community – it also secured our border. Unfortunately, the conference has left us with an incomplete product that does not secure the border.

The House bill followed the 9/11 Commission’s common sense recommendation that we have federal standards for driver’s licenses. The 9/11 Commission said: “For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.” Despite many attempts to keep these weapons away from terrorists, this bill does not do the job.

In fact, the language in the conference report is worse than current law, and it practically invites terrorists to come into our country and apply for these crucial identification documents. There is no enforcement or certification at the national level. There is no expiration when the visa expires. There is no data sharing between the states. And any state can simply walk away from the requirements. That does not sound like drivers’ license reform to me. Rather, it sounds like a recipe for disaster – the same kind of disaster that happened on 9/11. Remember that the 9/11 hijackers had multiple validly issued state licenses among them. That is how they got on to those airplanes. That is what we were trying to stop with these provisions. I regret that we have failed, but I can assure you that the issue is not going away.

We have also failed on asylum reform. Many terrorist aliens have applied for asylum and then been released from detention to plot or commit their crimes. That must stop and our provisions would have done that, but they too have been dropped.

Terrorists are getting asylum today for two main reasons. First, our government cannot ask foreign governments what evidence they have about the terrorist activities of asylum applicants. Thus, the U.S. government must usually oppose an asylum request by arguing that the applicant is lying. The 9th Circuit has effectively barred immigration judges from denying asylum claims on the basis of credibility determinations. That is crazy – every jury in the country judges the credibility of witnesses. Our bill would have stopped that.

In addition, the 9th Circuit has been granting asylum to applicants because their home government believes they are terrorists. It then says that therefore they are being persecuted because of the political beliefs of the relevant terrorist organization. Our bill would have stopped that nonsense as well. That issue is not going away either.

These provisions are not too controversial – they are vital. How could we face grieving families in the future and tell them that while we might have done more, the legislative hurdles were just too high? I, for one, cannot, and I, therefore, oppose this bill.

I have heard from many average citizens from my district and across the country who understand and want these provisions. I thank them for their support. I want to say to them and to everyone else that is listening: I will not rest until these provisions are enacted. I will bring them up relentlessly, and the job will be completed. This bill was a chance to complete the job. That chance was missed, but it will come again soon.

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