New law orders INS to overhaul border IT

The tattered information fence around America's border is set for a repair job under the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, which President George W. Bush signed last week.

The new law, which passed with bipartisan support, requires the Justice Department's Immigration and Naturalization Service to fully integrate its databases and systems. It also mandates the creation of an interoperable law enforcement and intelligence system dubbed Chimera.

Chimera must have name matching and the linguistic ability to process variant spellings of individuals' names. It must include data from INS systems used to process travelers at borders, such as the entry-exit system the agency is planning .

The law also requires INS to check databases of suspected terrorists and criminals before approving a foreigner's entry.

Justice must create a new Commission on Interoperable Data Sharing to oversee expanded information sharing among agencies and to monitor information misuse.

The law calls for biometric identification on passports issued by countries whose citizens do not require visas to enter the United States. It requires by 2003 that ships and planes entering the country provide electronic lists of their passengers.

The attorney general also must develop improved systems for checking visas and activities of foreign students and exchange visitors.

As an authorization bill, HR 3525 does not include the funding needed to implement its mandates. But congressional sources said the bill's broad bipartisan support, as well as the administration's endorsement, would pave the way for funding.

Also on deck in the legislative arena for border control is HR 3231, a bill the House has passed to split the INS into two agencies, one for border control and enforcement and the other to manage visa applicants and immigrants. The Senate Judiciary Committee has the bill on its agenda.

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