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Sessions Asks: Who Runs Congress? Elected Representatives or Lobbyists?

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, April 14, US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) said on the floor of the Senate: “It’s time for us to represent the national interest. The time for the special interests is over on this subject. Congress has spoken repeatedly. The American people are getting tired of this. I’m getting tired of this. Who runs this place? Elected representatives or some high-paid lobbyists somewhere?” Sen. Sessions made his passionate remarks after lobbyists began sending out letters urging Senators to defeat an amendment that Sessions has sponsored.”

Sen. Sessions amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act would ensure implementation of the biometric entry-exit system at all airports that serve as ports of entry and exit.

Sen. Sessions said, “Ending this failure has bipartisan support… The Subcommittee on Immigration and The National Interest held a hearing on January 20 of this year… All the Democratic members – the three that were at that subcommittee hearing – all said they favored this. There’s no real opposition to it.”

Sen. Sessions continued, “If Congress would like to know, if people in the Senate would like to know why the American people are not happy with the performance of Congress, this is a very good example. Congress promises to fix a problem, even claims we voted for and even claimed we passed laws to fix a problem, and then it sits by while nothing happens and two decades go by. Why? Well, the special interests speak up. We’ve got lobbyists sending out letters saying oppose the Sessions amendment. It’s time for us to represent the national interest. The time for the special interests is over on this subject. Congress has spoken repeatedly. The American people are getting tired of this. I’m getting tired of this. Who runs this place? Elected representatives or some high-paid lobbyists somewhere?”

Following the 9/11 attacks, the 9/11 Commission recommended that an automated entry-exit system be set up so that the government can track foreign visitors as they enter and exit the country. Congress agreed and since 2004‎ has required that such a system be biometrically-based. The entry portion of the system has been in place for approximately ten years, but the exit portion of the system was never actually installed; thus biometric exit is not currently operational at any air, land, or sea port of exit in the United States.

An amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act has been filed that would ensure implementation of the biometric entry-exit system at all airports that serve as ports of entry and exit.

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For nearly two decades, Congress has required the implementation of an automated entry-exit system and since 2004‎ has required that such a system be biometrically-based. Although the entry portion of the system has been in place for approximately ten years, until recently, the exit portion of the system has been neglected. Consequently, biometric exit is not currently operational at any air, land, or sea port of exit in the United States.

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A provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 created a dedicated source of revenue for implementation of the system so the measure is now funded. Sessions’ amendment would remove the largest remaining barrier to implementation – the cooperation of the airport and airline industries. The problem is that there is no physical dedicated processing point for persons exiting the country (unlike entry). The Sessions amendment would provide that no funds from the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act may be obligated or expended “for the physical modification of any existing air navigation facility that is a port of entry, or for the construction of a new air navigation facility intended to be a port of entry, unless the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies that the owner or sponsor of the facility has agreed to a plan that guarantees the installation and implementation of the [biometric exit system for which $1 billion in funding was appropriated in the omnibus] at such facility not later than two years after the date of enactment of the Act.”

The amendment allows CBP and each airport that serves as a port of entry to create a solution that works specific to the needs of CBP and the limitations of each individual airport. What it does require, however, is an agreement that guarantees that the system be installed and implemented at the airport within two years.

US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said in his own statement, “Our nation’s immigration system is broken, and we must do all that we can to protect our border and ensure that visitors are leaving the United States once their visas expire. I’m proud to cosponsor Senator Jeff Sessions’ amendment that would address this critical issue.”

The Sessions amendment has been endorsed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), NumbersUSA, and the National Border Patrol Council.

US Senator Jeff Sessions is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and The National Interest.

 

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