Secretary of Homeland Defense; Former Republican Governor (PA)
2003: US-VISIT relying on biometric fingerprinting
Post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts led to massive backlogs of foreign visitors entering the US and to controversial registration and detention of Middle Eastern visitors.
In an effort to harmonize the interests of security and commerce, in 2003 then-secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge implemented the US-VISIT program.
The system relies on biometrics fingerprinting, which is used to identify everyone entering the US except short-term visitors from Mexico or Canada, comparing them with a database that by 2008 contained 90 million sets of prints.
The system builds upon extensive intelligence and information sharing with foreign countries so that the border is the last rather than the 1st line of defense against terrorists.
No amnesty, but a path to legitimate law-abiding aliens
We will be unable to establish a 21st-century immigration policy that is sustainable if we can't find a way to deal with illegal immigration along our southern border.
It is estimated we have anywhere from 10 to 14 million illegal aliens among us.
It's impossible to accept the notion that this population must be identified and deported before we enact comprehensive immigration legislation.
Let's destroy the infrastructure that treats these unsuspecting illegal immigrants like chattel, indentured
servants, or slaves. We should apprehend the predators, drug runners, and thieves who are here illegally, while we find a way to legitimate the presence of those who broke our laws to get here, but who have been law-abiding ever since.
This does not mean guaranteeing a path to citizenship. Congress should link strong border enforcement with a biometric-based registration system for foreign workers. Common sense and technology are required, not amnesty.
The INS had long been criticized as ineffective. Part of the problem was inevitable: Our national policy on immigration was (and remains) confusing and full of contradictions, assuming you agree America even has an immigration policy (which I don't). It
suffered from the lack of up-to-date technology and inadequate funding.
By its own estimation, the capacity of the INS to keep track of the 600,000 students who entered the country on student visas was antiquated, and the results inaccurate, or worse.
Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p.127
, Sep 1, 2009
New visa interview policy unwisely restricts immigration
[There was] a growing problem with our new visa policies in the wake of 9/11. There is no embassy in the world that is equipped to interview everybody who applies for a visa, yet this was the new congressionally imposed policy.
A fundamental definition of America had changed. We had gone from the country which welcomed the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" [As the
Emma Lazarus poem proclaims] to being, almost overnight, one of the world's most restrictive countries. We were trying to cut ourselves off from the world at the very time that it was proving both impossible and unwise to do so.
The world had become interconnected--its commerce, its sciences, its personalities, its arts, its technology, its cultures.
Share costs of legal immigration between states & federal.
Ridge adopted the National Governors Association policy:
The Governors urge Congress to consider the following principles regarding immigration policies.
The decision to admit immigrants is a federal one that carries with it a firm federal commitment to shape immigration policy within the parameters of available resources we as a nation are determined to provide.
The fiscal impact of immigration decisions must be addressed by the federal government. The states, charged with implementing federal policy, have shared and are sharing in the costs; however, there should be no further shift of costs to the states.
A basic responsibility of the federal government is to collect and disseminate timely and reliable statistical information on immigration and its consequences for the United States.
Federal immigration policies should ensure that new immigrants do not become a public charge to federal, state, or local governments.
The federal government must provide adequate information to and consult with states on issues
concerning immigration decisions that affect the states.
States should not have to incur significant costs in implementing federal laws regarding immigration status as a condition of benefits.
The Governors urge the following regarding Legalization and Naturalization:
States require maximum flexibility in determining and allocating resources to meet the needs of newly legalized aliens.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) must be diligent in its efforts to ensure that felons are not naturalized and being given the benefits of citizenship rather than being deported.
The naturalization process should be streamlined to be more efficient and accessible to eligible applicants wishing to become citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof.
The INS must take aggressive action to eliminate the backlog of naturalization applications, which is now approximately 800,000 nationwide.
Source: NGA policy HR-2: Immigration and Refugee Policy 01-NGA3 on Feb 15, 2001
Federal government should deal with criminal repatriation.
Ridge adopted the National Governors Association policy:
[Regarding illegal immigration], the Governors continue to call on the federal government to negotiate and renegotiate prisoner transfer treaties to expedite the transfer of criminal aliens in the United States who are subject to deportation or removal. The negotiations for such agreements should focus on:
ensuring that the transferred prisoners serve the balance of their state-imposed prison sentence;
removing any requirement that the prisoners consent to be transferred to their countries of origin;
structuring the process to require that the prisoners serve the remainder of their original prison sentence if they return to the United States; and
considering economic incentives to encourage countries of origin to take back their criminal citizens.
Additionally, the Governors believe the federal government should:
increase the use of interior repatriation with countries contiguous to the United States;
place INS officials in state and local facilities for early identification of potentially deportable aliens - nearer the point of their illegal entry - to ensure formal deportation prior to release; and
upon the request of a state Governor, place INS officers in state courts to assist in the identification of criminal aliens pending criminal prosecution.
Finally, the Governors are concerned about the large number of deported felons that are returning to the United States. A significant number of the criminal alien felons housed in state prisons and local jails are previously convicted felons who reentered the United States after they were deported. The Governors urge the federal government to provide sufficient funds for proven positive identification systems, like the Automated Fingerprinting Identification System (AFIS), to allow for the expanded use of these systems in the rest of the nation.
Source: NGA policy HR-2: Immigration and Refugee Policy 01-NGA4 on Feb 15, 2001
Click here for definitions & background information on Immigration.