Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman
CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, September 24, 2004
For IMMEDIATE Release
9-11 Commission Legislation:
Hyde Outlines Proposed Foreign Policy Changes
Provisions to curb travel document fraud, target
terrorist sanctuaries, improve screening of U.S.-bound foreign travelers;
Hyde provisions in Omnibus Terror Prevention & Response Act
(WASHINGTON) – Tracking the worldwide movement of people on terrorist watch lists and curbing the growing use of illegal U.S. visas and passports are among the key provisions authored by U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) that are contained in legislation to implement the 9-11 Commission recommendations.
The Hyde provisions, which also include measures to improve U.S. diplomacy, are part of broad legislation introduced by the House Republican leadership on Friday in response to findings announced in July by the 9-11 Commission. The omnibus legislation is expected to be voted on in early October.
“Today, we are more aware than ever of the importance of ensuring security for America and her citizens. The nation was unprepared for the attacks of September 11. That cannot be allowed to happen again,” said Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
“In light of the excellent report produced by the 9-11 Commission, it is evident that we must act to guarantee America’s safety, and eradicating U.S. visa and passport fraud is essential to this effort,” he added.
The 9-11 Commission reported that the hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks used fraudulent travel documents to gain access into the United States. In response to this information, the Hyde proposal includes new penalties for the possession and transfer of unlawful visas and passports. His proposal also includes provisions for the establishment of an Office of Visa and Passport Security within the Department of State to target and prosecute those who are involved in document fraud.
The Hyde bill includes a study on implementation of a full-scale entry-exit passenger screening system at all U.S. ports of entry. It also urges the President to lobby for international travel document standards, including standards for translation of names into the Roman alphabet for accurate, more efficient identification of travelers.
“The changes outlined here are timely and necessary, but we also must look to the future. For this reason, this proposal requires a feasibility study of the use of biometric, tamper-resistant, machine-readable passports and creation of a worldwide traveler history database so that we can better track those who may pose a potential threat to our Nation,” said Hyde.
Included in Hyde’s proposal is an increase in the number of airports worldwide, from 14 to 39, that pre-screen travel documents of passengers bound for the United States. In addition, the Immigration Security Initiative, designed to aid airport personnel in identifying fraudulent documents and assessing potential threats, will be expanded to include 50 airports worldwide.
Over the next five years, the proposal mandates 600 additional consular officers at U.S. embassies abroad to help monitor nonimmigrant visa applicants. Along with these additional consular officers, antifraud specialists will be assigned to the 100 embassies and consulates which have reported the greatest occurrences of travel document fraud.
“America has already seen what can happen at the hands of terrorists,” said Hyde. “We must be proactive in the establishment of more strict security measures and be pioneers in the research of future technologies to ensure that the United States is a safer place for all of us and for the next generation of Americans.”
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