WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 — In a major blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to secure borders, domestic security officials have for now given up on plans to develop a facial or fingerprint recognition system to determine whether a vast majority of foreign visitors leave the country, officials say.Now, it almost sounds as if the Bushies did everything in their power to put this in place, only to be snafued by a bureaucracy. Guess again.
Domestic security officials had described the system, known as U.S. Visit, as critical to security and important in efforts to curb illegal immigration. Similarly, one-third of the overall total of illegal immigrants are believed to have overstayed their visas, a Congressional report says.
Tracking visitors took on particular urgency after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it became clear that some of the hijackers had remained in the country after their visas had expired.
But in recent days, officials at the Homeland Security Department have conceded that they lack the financing and technology to meet their deadline to have exit-monitoring systems at the 50 busiest land border crossings by next December. A vast majority of foreign visitors enter and exit by land from Mexico and Canada, and the policy shift means that officials will remain unable to track the departures.So, um, lemme guess....now who provides the funds for this research and development, you think? Congress? Well...
Congress ordered the creation of such a system in 1996.Wait...1996? You mean Bill Clinton signed this sensible measure into law? So it wasn't Clinton. Who else?
Domestic security officials, who have allocated $1.7 billion since the 2003 fiscal year to track arrivals and departures, argue that creating the program with the existing technology would be prohibitively expensive.Lemme see...more expensive than, say, fighting a land war in South Asia?
They say it would require additional employees, new buildings and roads at border crossings, and would probably hamper the vital flow of commerce across those borders.
So basically we're left to the conclusion that the only reason this system isn't in place right now, ten years after authorization, is that a war in Iraq is draining the economy and government of the vital funds needed to study, research, develop, and implement a simple system of essentially keeping a clipboard and checking whether a person who said he or she was leaving, has left.
No one's doubting that the vast majority of people who stay here illegally are here for benign reasons: a better job, a better life, a better chance. That's America, and we ought to get used to the fact that we cannot seal our borders so well as to prevent that dream from spilling over and then backwashing our shores.
But. If you have on your list a Saudi Arabian visiting from Hamburg, Germany who recently has spent a few months in Jalalabad, Pakistan and Kandahar, Afghanistan, you might want to keep an eye on his whereabouts, and that starts with knowing that he's still here.
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky