As part of the ongoing debate about whether the legalization provisions of the Senate bill should be linked to border security provisions of S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, the  Senate will soon be considering Senator Vitter’s amendment no. 1228.  The amendment would require the full implementation of the US-VISIT biometric entry-exit system at every port of entry in the United States before unauthorized immigrants who have applied for legalization would be allowed to become Lawful Permanent Residents (LRPs).

What does the amendment say: The stated purpose of the bill is “to prohibit the temporary grant of legal status, or adjustment of citizenship status of, any individual who is unlawfully present in the United States until the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies that the US-VISIT System…has been fully implemented at every land, sea, and air port of entry and Congress passes a joint resolution, under fast track procedures, stating that such integrated entry and exit data system has been sufficiently implemented.”

What the amendment does: The amendment would prohibit the granting of Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status to any unauthorized immigrant until the US-VISIT system has been implemented at every U.S. port of entry. No provision is made for studying the technical feasibility or the cost of achieving this goal.

Does the amendment get us closer to the goal of fixing the broken immigration system?

The Vitter amendment would bring the legalization process to a complete halt for years. It would take considerable time and several billion dollars to fully implement US-VISIT at all air and sea ports. As for implementing US-VISIT at all land ports of entry, the Department of Homeland Security has questioned the feasibility of doing so with existing technology. Land ports of entry would have to be expanded considerably to allow exit-tracking capabilities, which would be impossible for ports of entry in congested urban areas. Given these constraints, the Vitter amendment would indefinitely delay the legalization component of the bill.

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