Signs Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
May 14, 2002
3:29 P.M. EDT
Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you all for coming. I'm honored today
to sign a bill that is an important step in an effort to secure our border,
while promoting trade and commerce. It's a good piece of legislation. It's bipartisan
legislation. And I want to thank the members of both parties who have worked
hard to get this bill to my desk.
I want to thank Tom Ridge, who's here. Where are you, Tom? Oh, you're Tom Ridge,
yeah. (Laughter.) At least that's what some of the members are saying. I particularly
want to thank Senators Kyl, Brownback, and Kennedy, Feinstein, and Hatch for
being here, as fine, fine members of the United States Senate. I want to thank
you for coming. I also want to appreciate Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner and George
Gekas, as well. These members worked hard on this legislation. I want to thank
the members of my administration who are here.
I also want to say hello to Arlene Howard. Ms. Howard, it's good to see you.
A lot of folks might -- you can stand up. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)
Arlene gave me her son, George's badge, and -- as a reminder of the evil the
had been done to our country. You look great. I remember when I went over to
Yankee Stadium to throw out the ball there at the World Series, Arlene's --
one of Arlene's other sons was there. Where is he? Oh, there he is. Thanks for
the advice -- aim high. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Peter Johnson, who was George's partner for 12 years. Peter,
thanks for coming. It's good to see you. I appreciate you being here. Thank
you, sir. (Applause.)
I want to welcome you all. I was looking at Arlene and the brave folks here
-- it reminds me of what was done to us there on September 11th, and how important
it is that we remain tough and strong and diligent, as we seek justice -- as
we chase down these killers one by one, and bring them to justice. (Applause.)
And that's a major responsibility of all of ours, and it's a responsibility
we take seriously. The country is united in our drive for justice. This nation
is determined, and we're patient, much to the chagrin of the enemy. It must
make them really worried to know that we don't have a calendar that says, on
such and such a date we're going to quit; that when it comes to our freedoms
-- defending our freedoms, and securing our homeland, and protecting our innocent
Americans, and never forgetting what happened on September the 11th, we are
some kind of tough. And that's the way it's going to be. (Applause.)
We've got responsibilities here at home, as well, and it starts with our borders.
Our borders process an incredibly huge number of people. It may come as a surprise
to some of you, but there's -- over 500 million people a year enter America,
and half of those are our own citizens that may have been traveling. We have
11 million trucks come across our borders. We have 51,000 foreign ships call
into our ports. It reminds us that no nation can be totally secure, or more
secure, unless we're well-protected, and unless our borders are well-screened.
We must know who's coming into our country and why they're coming. We must know
what our visitors are doing and when they leave. That's important for us to
know. It's knowledge necessary to make our homeland more secure.
America is not a fortress; no, we never want to be a fortress. We're a free
country; we're an open society. And we must always protect the rights of our
law -- of law-abiding citizens from around the world who come here to conduct
business or to study or to spend time with their family. That's what we're known
for. We're known for respect.
But, on the other hand, we can do a better job of making our borders more secure,
and make our borders smart. We must use technology and be wise about how we
use technology, to speed the flow of commerce across our borders, and to identify
frequent travelers who pose no risk. We should be directing resources to risk.
We ought to be routing out smugglers and focusing on criminals -- and, of course,
stopping terrorists from coming into the country.
The bill I sign today enhances our ongoing efforts to strengthen our borders.
The purpose of this bill is to help our country do a better job of border security.
It authorizes 400 additional inspectors, investigators, and other staff on the
INS over the next five years. We're adding manpower, obviously. It makes it
easier for the INS and other federal agencies to get better information about
people and products that come into America. It requires every foreign visitor
desiring entrance into the United States to carry a travel document containing
biometric identification -- that would be fingerprints or facial recognition
-- that will enable us to use technology to better deny fraudulent entry into
It strengthens the requirements that all commercial passenger ships and airplanes
entering the United States provide a list of passengers and crew before arrival,
so that border authorities can act immediately to prevent someone from entering
the country if he or she poses a threat to our citizens. It makes a lot of sense
to do that. We should have probably been doing it a long time ago.
These new measures will only be effective if federal authorities have access
to important information. One of the things we've learned is how to better share
information. Right now, the FBI and the CIA do a good job of sharing information.
Information is getting better shared from the federal to the state to the local
But we've got to do a better job of sharing information and expanding information
to the INS and the State Department and Customs agents, and throughout the intelligence
community. We've just got to do a better job. This bill enables us to modernize
our communication, so the information flows freely and quickly. The legislation
requires law enforcement and intelligence communities to continue to develop
a list of suspected terrorists, and to maintain that list, and to make it readily
available, so that nobody is granted entry into the United States that's on
In other words, we're beginning to gather information overseas in a much better
way. We've got a vast coalition of nations that are still with us. They heard
the message, either you're with us, or you're not with us. They're still with
us. And we're sharing information. And we can use that -- better use that information
with our own agencies here at home, to make sure that we really button this
up, that we do our job, the job the American people expect.
The bill didn't have everything I wanted. I wanted a temporary extension of
245-I in the bill, which basically allowed certain immigrants, sponsored by
their families or employers, to become legal residents without having to leave
the country, so that families can stay together. I thought that made sense.
It's not a part of the bill; I intend to work with Congress to see if we can't
get that done here pretty quick.
Yet, the common sense measures will help us meet the goal, and that's important.
It will help us meet the goals of legitimate commerce and important travel.
And at the same time, it will help us keep the country secure. Basically what
we're saying is, this is part of a -- legislative part of a national strategy.
Tom's worked on the national strategy. He's worked with our respective agency
heads. And Congress has been a great partner in this strategy. This is good
You know, sometimes in Washington we actually are able to put our political
parties aside and focus on what's best for the country. And we're able to say,
let's make sure America comes -- is the first priority of all of us. And this
has happened in this bill.
So it's my honor to welcome both Republicans and Democrats from the Legislative
Branch of government here as I sign this important legislation. Thank you all
for coming. God bless. (Applause.)