18 February 2004
Innovation, Technology, Partnerships Improve U.S. Border Security
DHS official rejects "Fortress America" label, says U.S.
a welcoming nation
The United States is using new technologies and "unprecedented
partnerships" with private industry and international allies
to gather information about cargo, people and terrorists threats,
improving border security and the immigration process, officials
In a February 18 address at the Heritage Foundation in Washington,
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant Secretary for Policy
and Planning, Border and Transportation Security Stewart Verdery
gave a broad overview of U.S. initiatives to enhance security while
preserving the free flow of legitimate travel and trade.
"We have come a long way since September 10, 2001 to secure
our cargo and immigration systems," said Verdery.
"Our immigration policies had been a Jeckyl and Hyde mix
of enforcement, facilitation, and amnesty. And our cargo generally
moved unscreened across oceans, rails, and highways," he said.
Discussing security improvements for the shipping and transportation
of cargo, Verdery said the U.S. has "completely transformed" its
process of inspections of incoming cargo, using centralized processing
of intelligence sharing through its National Targeting Center.
The U.S. has also strengthened requirements for carriers to submit
manifest data earlier in the process, he said.
Recognizing that container shipping is "uniquely vulnerable" to
a potential terrorist attack, Verdery said DHS launched the Container
Security Initiative (CSI) -- a program to identify high-risk cargo
containers and pre-screen them before they are loaded on vessels
destined for the United States.
"If terrorists used a sea container to conceal a weapon of
mass destruction and detonated it on arrival at a port, the impact
on global trade and the global economy could be immediate and devastating," said
The assistant secretary said that governments representing 19
of 20 ports identified thus far for the program agreed to participate
in CSI and that the program has been successfully implemented in
16 of those ports.
DHS has also been working to introduce more "securely sealed,
tamper evident" cargo containers, said Verdery, which can
be achieved with International Organization for Standardization
(ISO) high security bolts and better placement of seals.
Discussing the U.S. immigration system, Verdery said the first
phase of U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology
(US-VISIT) program was "successfully" implemented at
115 airports and 14 major seaports on January 5, 2004.
The automated entry/exit system, he said, requires most visitors
traveling on visas to the United States to have two fingerprints
scanned by an inkless device and a digital photograph taken by
immigration officials upon entry at U.S. air and seaports.
"These two steps add only seconds to the inspection and we
have not seen significant inspection delays anywhere, despite ‘the-sky-is-falling'
predictions of many," he said.
US-VISIT provides the capability to verify the identity of incoming
visitors, record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens into and
out of the United States, and confirm compliance with visa and
immigration policies. Exit procedures at air and seaports will
be phased in in 2004, and entry and exit enhancements at U.S. land
borders will be phased in throughout 2004 and 2005.
As of February 13, 2004, 1.2 million passengers had been processed
through the entry portion of US-VISIT, producing 88 verified watchlist
hits, added Verdery. These hits included a citizen from El Salvador
intercepted after US-VISIT determined that he had previously been
convicted of a drunk driving hit and run death under another identity,
and a citizen from Peru whom the US-VISIT biometric check disclosed
to be a convicted cocaine trafficker wanted for escaping from a
federal prison in 1984, he said.
In response to a questioner's suggestion that security initiatives
and changes in U.S. visa policies have fostered an image of the
United States as an unwelcoming nation, Verdery said, "We
reject the 'fortress America' label."
"We very much want people who are coming here for travel,
for business, for family reasons, for study to come, and we are
trying to take a comprehensive review of the various security programs
that have been put into place to see do they really work," said
He said his office is undertaking a comprehensive review of visa
policy, working in close partnership with the U.S. Department of
"We think some of the problems have been getting better in
terms of delays in issuing visas and port of entry issues. We think
we are making progress," added Verdery.
Discussing the perception of DHS initiatives, he said, "Perception
is something we need to work on. We need to make the case to people
that these new procedures are in their interests, that it protects
travelers, that it will speed people through the border."
Following is the text of Verdery's remarks as prepared for delivery:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
February 18, 2004
Remarks of C. Stewart Verdery, Jr.
Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Policy
At the Heritage Foundation
Building 21st Century Borders: Policy Development to Meet New
Thank you Larry (Wortzel) for that introduction.
For thirty years, this organization has been an important and
effective voice in the public policy issues confronting our government
and our nation. Having spent six years just across the street working
in the Senate, I care to rely heavily on the work of your analysts
and worked closely with creative thinkers like Todd Gaziano. And
Tripp Baird, Drew Bond, and David Muhlhausen were colleagues during
those tumultuous years in Congress. So it is an honor to have the
opportunity to speak to you under the Heritage banner. It will
also be nice afterwards to have lunch here, rather than heading
off to my old haunts at Subway and Armand's.
In two weeks the Department will celebrate its one year anniversary.
Like many marriages, during the first year we spent considerable
time learning how to work together in a new household, figuring
out our roles, and to be honest sometimes wondering what we had
gotten ourselves into. But nearly one year later I stand before
you with new gray hairs and an immense feeling of accomplishment
at what the Department of Homeland Security has accomplished in
just one year.
Secretary Ridge has said "innovation is one of our greatest
weapons" in the war against terrorism. New ideas stem from
the freedom to explore, to assess needs and approach solutions.
Author and business leader William Pollard said, "Learning
and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to
think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow."
As Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security
Policy and Planning, my job is to look at what we as a country
are doing today to protect our borders and our trade, and then
to create policies -- combining theories with legal authority and
budgets -- that improve upon them. Finding the proverbial needle
-- a terrorist or terrorist weapon -- in the haystack will also
take some luck, but as they say, luck is the residue of design.
We all remember the great show Seinfeld. One of the best episodes
was when Jerry and George Costanza created a sit-com about nothing.
And I, like millions, laughed that nothing could be so funny. Well,
this job is the polar opposite -- it is about everything. We know
that only one mistake -- allowing a terrorist and a weapon to converge
in our country -- could kill ten Americans, or a thousand, or a
million. And even an event with relatively few casualties could
throw our economy into chaos and possibly tempt us to curtail the
civil liberties that have made America a beacon of hope and expression
for over 200 years.
And that temptation may be strong. Life in the United States --
and perhaps the world -- will never be quite the same as before
September 11, 2001. I remember where I was, working in Senator
Nickles office on the third floor of the U.S. Capitol. It was a
nice fall morning and we had the windows open to catch a breeze
coming up the Mall. We had just learned about the Trade Center
attacks when we suddenly heard a "BOOM" outside our window.
Soon the smoke appeared from the Pentagon. And it was only a few
hours later when we learned that our former colleague in Senator
Nickles' office, Barbara Olson, had been on the plane that hit
the Pentagon. And so a vow was made that we would never lose sight
of our mission to protect the nation against any future attacks.
The terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
as symbols of America. Our economic and military power represent
a threat to the type of world they would like to create.
We all were dramatically affected by September 11, but the President
gave me the opportunity and challenge to help fix the holes in
security that allowed these tragic events to happen.
I was confirmed by the Senate in June and in this role, I report
to Border and Transportation Security Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson.
One of five directorates at DHS, BTS is responsible for over 100,000
dedicated employees who represent the meat and potatoes of the
Department. They were brought together under a single roof because
of their common focus of ensuring the security of our nation's
borders, ports of entry, and transportation systems, while at the
same time facilitating the flow of legitimate commerce and enforcing
our nation's immigration, narcotics, and trade laws.
My office, the Office of BTS Policy and Planning, is responsible
for developing, evaluating, and coordinating policy. In advising
Secretary Ridge and Under Secretary Hutchinson, I am responsible
for working directly with the agencies that comprise BTS -- the
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Immigration
and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration,
and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. To address all
of these duties, my office has a top-notch staff of policy professionals
with extensive experience in immigration, customs, transportation,
international affairs, and international trade.
Briefly let me tell you the scope of the challenge that the Department
faces every day. First, our borders.
-- The United States has 7,500 miles of land borders.
-- It has 9,500 miles of shoreline and 361 seaports.
-- More than 440 million visitors arrive each year.
-- At our 157 ports of entry, 118 million vehicles, 11 million
trucks, 2.5 million railcars, and 7 million cargo containers cross
Now for our transportation systems.
-- About 768,000 commercial flights operate the United States at
429 commercial airports with 635 million passengers each year.
-- We have 143,000 miles of freight railways and nearly 4 million
miles of highways.
-- We boast 550 major public transportation systems and 590,000
We have come a long way since September 10, 2001 to secure our
cargo and immigration systems and we had a long way to go. Trying
to retrofit our aviation systems, both in terms of airport design
and airline business practices, to provide sufficient security
has been a major undertaking. Our immigration policies had been
a Jeckyl and Hyde mix of enforcement, facilitation, and amnesty.
And our cargo generally moved unscreened across oceans, rails,
So how are we meeting this immense challenge? In the 21st century,
a border is not simply a geographic line between two points. It
is more. Today, while border guards inspect documents, people,
and cargo, they simultaneously must inspect elaborate data housed
by information systems. These lines of code and information have
become a virtual border for our nations.
Today, I want to talk a little about where we were, where we are
today, and where we are going. Building on the fine tradition of
the Border Patrol Agents, U.S Customs inspectors and others who
put themselves out on the line to defend our borders, we are creating
programs that use state of the art-technology and unprecedented
partnerships with industry and international allies to develop
information about cargo, people and threats to make our first line
of defense thousands of miles away from our shores.
Although security concerns, and specifically use of the cargo
supply chain to transport implements of terrorism, were certainly
on the radar screen of U.S. government before 9/11 as well as that
of shippers and manufacturers, it is fair to say that loss prevention
was the primary goal, not terrorist threats.
Similarly, our approach in government reflected other national
interests. In the pre 9/11 world, the efforts of the legacy Customs
operations in the cargo arena were largely focused intercepting
narcotics, drugs, and other forms on contraband, and, of course,
the traditional role of ensuring that duties and taxes were applied
Pre 9/11, efforts focused on the actual security of the cargo
supply chain were sporadic and were not linked into an overall
Federal mission to protect cargo, faculties and conveyances. For
example, although Customs performed targeting of shipments, this
process was largely decentralized, with individual ports often
running different types of targeting programs. As a result levels
of inspection varied from port to port, often encouraging shippers
to use more "lenient" ports over others. Post 9/11, we
have completely transformed the targeting process by centralizing
this function at our National Targeting Center and by applying
targeting rules across the system that ensure that the most recent
threat and intelligence information is factored into the targeting
process. We have also created critical links to other government
information sources to ensure that we have as many pieces to our
risk analysis "puzzle" as possible. As part of this effort,
we have strengthened the requirements for information by requiring
carriers to submit manifest data earlier in the process, an undertaking
that would have been much more controversial and difficult to implement
prior to September 2001.
This need for better information is also reflected in new requirements
for port security programs now required by the U.S. Coast Guard,
as well as efforts underway with foreign governments to establish
security measures. Earlier exchange of information is absolutely
critical to ensuring an effective partnership with foreign governments,
particularly if we are to rely on their efforts to assist us with
identifying threats and vulnerabilities. We see a new level of
willingness to engage in the post 9/11 world.
Finally, I believe that the post 9/11 reality reflects a strengthened
commitment between government and industry. We have come together
out of necessity, recognizing that neither government nor the private
sector can address the security challenges alone. This recognition
has spurred the development of programs where industry has stepped
forward to implement more rigorous security measures on a voluntary
basis. What we hope to achieve as we move forward with such efforts
is the realization of security benefits as well as decreased theft
and facilitated flow of goods. In other words, we hope that security
measures can ultimately support a stronger business model.
I would be remiss if I did not mention how important CBP Commissioner
Rob Bonner has been in these efforts. His ability to focus legacy
Customs and now CBP on innovative programs to meet the terrorist
threat has been extraordinary and it shows in the progress that
has made since 2001.
Now, I want to focus on some of these key programs and initiatives
in a bit more detail ...
CONTAINER SECURITY INITIATIVE (CSI)
Oceangoing sea containers represent the most important artery
of global commerce -- some 48 million full sea cargo containers
move between the world's major seaports each year, and nearly 50%
of all U.S. imports (by value) arrive via sea containers.
Because of the sheer volume of sea container traffic and the opportunities
it presents for terrorists, containerized shipping is uniquely
vulnerable. If terrorists used a sea container to conceal a weapon
of mass destruction and detonated it on arrival at a port, the
impact on global trade and the global economy could be immediate
Given this vulnerable system, we realized the need to develop
and implement a program that would enable us to better secure containerized
shipping against the terrorist threat. That program is the Container
Security Initiative (CSI).
Under CSI, DHS has entered into bi-lateral partnerships with other
governments to identify high-risk cargo containers and to pre-screen
them before they are loaded on vessels destined for the United
States. It involves stationing personnel at the foreign CSI ports
to identify and target high-risk containers that might pose a terrorist
security risk. The initial goal was to implement CSI at the top
20 ports in terms of the volume of cargo containers shipped to
the United States. That's because those top 20 ports alone account
for two-thirds of all containers shipped to U.S. seaports, and
most cargo shipments from high-risk countries are transshipped
through these ports.
Today, governments representing 19 of those top 20 have signed
up to implement CSI. And we've actually already implemented CSI
at 16 foreign seaports in Europe, Asia, and Canada. With nearly
all of the top 20 are on board, we have begun Phase 2 of CSI, where
we are expanding to additional strategically important foreign
locations such as Malaysia.
CUSTOMS-TRADE PARTNERSHIP AGAINST TERRORISM (C-TPAT)
Approximately 17 million cargo containers and commercial trucks
enter the U.S. every year. A comprehensive border security strategy
for our nation and for global trade simply had to include the private
sector, because they are the ones who own the supply chain. In
this cooperative effort Customs could offer something to the private
sector in return for their participation in this security program:
expedited processing at the borders. Thus was born the Customs-Trade
Partnership Against Terrorism.
To join C-TPAT, companies must provide us with the measures they
have taken to strengthen the security of their supply chains, from
the foreign loading docks of their suppliers to the U.S. border.
CBP reviews whether supply chain security best practices are met
and will continue to be met. If so, a company is admitted into
C-TPAT. Thereafter, CBP validates that supply chain security has
been implemented and, where appropriate, suggests improvements.
In exchange, companies that meet our security standards get expedited
processing at and through our borders. Shippers, brokers, and importers
have joined the program in large numbers: from an original group
of 7 major importers in December 2001, membership has grown today
to more than 5,000 companies.
C-TPAT has become an important part of our risk-targeting strategy
by permitting CBP to better target and, indeed inspect more cargo
shipments that have not been secured through C-TPAT or which otherwise
pose a potential risk. We will be working this year to strengthen
the validations, or security review processes, for C-TPAT members,
and to assist shippers to identify fellow C-TPAT members to leverage
the program's effectiveness.
One of the most important things we can, and must, do is to introduce
smarter, more secure containers into the marketplace. Commissioner
Bonner has spoken about this as a future aspect of the expansion
of the C-TPAT program. Within BTS, our interest in the implementation
of the smart container is also linked to meeting requirements under
the Maritime Transportation Security Act -- or MTSA -- and specifically
the development of a "Secure System of Transportation" for
the international maritime supply chain. BTS is moving forward
aggressively to meet these mandates. Industry input into proposed
solutions is essential and will be a significant part of our effort.
What do I mean by a smart container: First, it must be securely
sealed, and second, it must be tamper-evident. Without both factors,
factory and supply chain security is of little value if the box
itself is not secure during transit. A "Smart Box" need
not be expensive and doesn't require high technology. It can be
achieved with an ISO high-security bolt seal and better placement
of the seal to prevent unauthorized entry.
MARITIME DOMAIN AWARENESS
It is also crucial for the U.S. to increase domain awareness in
the maritime sector as we attempt to identify and intercept as
many threats as possible before they reach our shores. The Coast
Guard plays the lead role in ensuring maritime domain awareness.
Key elements under development include:
-- Instituting measures to increase the awareness of people, vessels
and cargo within the maritime domain and fusing information and
intelligence with other law enforcement agencies to maximize security.
-- Current regulations to require vessels to provide 96-hour advance
notice of arrival at U.S. ports.
-- Conducting port security assessments in what we call our tier
one ports -- these are the most significant military and economic
ports all 55 of which will undergo assessments by the end of 2004;
and So I think you'll agree that we've come a long way in securing
our systems of international cargo. But we also understand that
we must redouble our efforts, working with other nations and the
private sector, and that is what we intend to do.
IMMIGRATION AND PASSENGER PROCESSING
As difficult as our cargo security task may have seemed in 2001,
it was relatively simple compared to the reforms that were necessary
to transform our immigration and passenger processing systems to
meet the terrorism challenge. Some the weaknesses that existed
in the fall of 2001 have been addressed, and others are in the
process of being fixed, but there remain significant hurdles to
climb. The policy challenges in this arena are immense and begin
with the half-dozen places where our government has an opportunity
to decide whether the traveler falls within the 99% of persons
we want to come to the U.S. to visit, conduct business, or study,
or the 1% that are criminals or potential terrorists.
It starts for most people with the visa process which in 2001
was often done by mail. The Administration has made significant
changes to the visa process and entry screening requirements since
9/11, to provide better security in light of the revised threat
assessment to our national security. The percentage of visa applicants
who are required to appear at a consular office for a personal
interview has been steadily increasing over the past year. On August
1, 2003 new regulations were implemented which limit waiver of
personal appearance for nonimmigrant visa applicants to only a
few categories of exceptions, such as diplomats. And in coordination
with the Department of Justice and Department of State, we have
added more interagency security checks for certain groups of visa
applicants from certain countries.
Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security has assumed lead
responsibility for establishing visa policy, and has begun stationing
employees in high-risk areas to assist the consular officers in
the visa process.
The next stop in our process, for air travelers, comes when people
book flights to come to the U.S. and arrive at the airport. Since
2001, we have developed a capability to take robust Passenger Name
Record information from a person's commercial air passenger reservation.
PNR data is essential for CBP officers to adequately review the
list of passengers on a plane destined for the United States, to
determine if any passenger poses a threat to the aircraft or the
other passengers on the aircraft, or is believed to be involved
with terrorism or other transnational criminal activity.
This current process has been threatened by the invocation of
European data protection laws. However, in December 2003, Secretary
Ridge and European Commissioner Frits Bolkestein reached an agreement
regarding the legal transfer of PNR data to Homeland Security.
The agreement finds that Homeland Security's handling of the PNR
data is sufficient for an "adequacy finding," which will
support passenger privacy. Last week I went to Brussels to meet
with European officials to finalize details of our agreement. It
is essential that we resolve the issue of data protection with
the European Union, so that we can separate the wheat from the
chaff, reduce delays for travelers, and stop the terrorists before
they can do harm.
We are also working to develop the CAPPS II program which will
seek to facilitate domestic air travel and provide even greater
security for international flights.
The next phase for international travelers comes at the airport
check-in counter. CBP is also now able to access advance manifest
information from people's passports as they check in for flights,
a critical tool in our efforts to identify individuals who may
pose a security threat.
Before 9/11, air carriers transmitted some advance information
on international airline passengers to legacy U.S. Customs -- on
a purely voluntary basis. We sought legislation that would make
the transmission of that information mandatory. In late 2001, Congress
enacted that legislation.
In less than a year, we achieved a 99% compliance rate. CBP, through
our combined customs and immigration authorities, uses that information
to evaluate and determine which arriving passengers pose a potential
terrorist risk. Following departure but prior to a plane's arrival,
the APIS data is checked against the multi-agency law enforcement
database, known as the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS).
IBIS includes the combined databases of over 20 federal agencies,
including watchlists and the FBI's National Crime Information Center
wanted persons files.
CBP uses the APIS and PNR data at the National Targeting Center
via an advanced computer system called the Automated Targeting
System to identify potential terrorists and terrorist targets for
follow up at U.S. ports of entry.
The vital role of the NTC was demonstrated throughout the period
of heightened aviation concern over the past two months. The NTC
used advance information and its access to numerous databases to
evaluate the flights of interest identified by the national intelligence
community. These flights of interest were required to submit advance
passenger information prior to departure and to postpone departure
until the information could be fully vetted and cleared. The advance
passenger information and passenger name records were run against
major terrorist watchlist databases to identify any watchlisted
terrorists on the flights, and reviewed by NTC analysts to detect
reservation anomalies that might have indicated terrorism connections
of non-watchlisted individuals.
We are also working with CBP to revive the old Immigration Security
Officer concept to have CBP officers in certain foreign airports
to put some "boots on the ground" to back up our analytical
PORTS OF ENTRY
Next on our tour of immigration systems is the actual border itself,
and a little history is in order. About a quarter century ago,
the United States stopped asking international visitors to periodically
register with immigration authorities. We stopped keeping track
of the whereabouts and activities of our visitors. But on September
11th, 2001, 19 of them took advantage of our welcoming nature ...
and took the lives of almost 3,000 people.
After the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, Congress required
that an entry/exit system be installed at our ports of entry in
the 1996 immigration act. It is estimated that about 40% of the
millions of aliens illegally present in the U.S. entered with visas
and overstayed their term of admission, but without any exit system
and only a minimal, unreliable entry system, we have not known
the real number or who has overstayed. Amazingly, we have relied
on a paper-based system which literally requires people to hand-key
in departure information weeks after it happens.
A second consequence of having no entry-exit system is that criminals
have been able to come and go across our border, some dozens of
times, using different aliases, without detection.
Of course, the entry-exit system mandated by Congress in 1996
didn't happen. The deadline for the system was pushed back in 1998
and again in 2000 when Congress passed the Data Management Improvement
Act ("DMIA"). The deadlines in the DMIA remain the deadlines
we have today -- an entry-exit system was required at air and seaports
by the end of 2003, at the 50 busiest land ports by the end of
2004, and at the remaining land ports by the end of 2005.
In the spring of 2003, Secretary Ridge named the entry-exit system "US-VISIT" (The
United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology)
and upped the ante by promising not only to meet the 2003 air and
seaport deadline, but by adding a biometric requirement to the
system. His announcement, by the way, came on my second day of
work at the Department -- surprise! The biometric is critical to
the program's success:
-- The lack of biometrics in travel documents hampers the ability
of consular and immigration officials to confidently tie the traveler
to the document.
-- An effective system of biometrics required the development
of an internationally agreed upon standard so that "biometric" documents
could be consistent between countries and verified not only by
the issuing country.
And after an incredible amount of quick policy work, equipment
acquisition, and operational crash courses, the US-VISIT was successfully
rolled out at air and seaports nation-wide on January 5. While
a visa holder is being inspected by a CBP inspector, the traveler
places his or her 2 index fingers on a small box to have the finger
scanned. A very small camera also takes a photo of the visa holder.
These two steps add only seconds to the inspection and we have
not seen significant inspection delays anywhere, despite "the-sky-is-falling" predictions
by many. As of February 13, 1,209,450 passengers have been processed
through the entry portion of US-VISIT, producing 88 verified watchlist
hits. These include:
-- A citizen of El Salvador intercepted in New York on January
10, after US-VISIT determined that he had previously been convicted
of a DUI hit and run death under another identity. Through the
use of another fraudulent identity, this individual had been able
to successfully leave and re-enter the United States despite outstanding
warrants for his arrest, including a visit as recently as December
-- On January 14, DHS officers in Miami encountered a Peruvian
national attempting to enter the United States. He had previously
visited the United States in May 2003, and his name did not appear
on any biographic watch lists. A biometric check under US-VISIT
disclosed that he was in fact a convicted cocaine trafficker wanted
for escaping from a federal prison in 1984. Although he had previously
been able to enter the United States by using a fraudulent identity,
this criminal could not fool the biometric capabilities of US-VISIT.
But the success of the initial phase of US-VISIT has only whet
our appetite. There are several major phases left to design and
implement -- this is a complicated job that will take time to complete.
US-VISIT is designed to be rolled out in increments to ensure that
the foundation is strong and the building blocks are effective.
We are on track to meet the December 31, 2004 deadline to implement
the US-VISIT program at the 50 busiest land border ports of entry.
We also will work to collect biometrics from travelers in the Visa
Waiver Program who are currently exempt from US-VISIT. And we need
to integrate the smaller versions of US-VISIT which has been developed
to enroll foreign students -- SEVIS -- and nationals from countries
of special concern -- NSEERS. Lastly, we have to continue testing
and implementing effective exit procedures to find those overstays
and potential criminals and terrorists trying to leave the country.
To reach a fully, universal entry-exit system, we will also have
to address the current ability of Canadians and some other Western
Hemisphere visitors, as well as U.S. Citizens, to enter or re-enter
the U.S. without holding a valid passport. This Western Hemisphere
exemption, while not statutory, is longstanding and has allowed
individuals to request admission to the United States with little,
if any, documentation. In certain circumstances, an oral declaration
of citizenship is sufficient. This is a great loophole in our improving
entry-exit system and we will be looking carefully whether we should
require that a valid passport or other secure document be presented
to enter the United States.
Two hundred years ago this very month, the rag tag group now known
as the Lewis and Clark Expedition sat at the banks of the Mississippi
River, ready to commence a journey to find the mythical water passage
to the Pacific Ocean. Such a passage they did not find, but they
did push science to new limits, help settle the great plains, and
prove the need for a united continent. We will never reach the
mythical status of perfect safety, but we are making great progress
in securing our homeland and improving the flow of goods and people
along the way. Much like Lewis and Clark, sometimes it feels like
we are paddling upstream. Much like Lewis and Clark's expedition,
we know that homeland security is not a destination, but rather
a journey. Like Lewis and Clark, we are inspired by a President
with a vision. And like them, we will succeed.