Senator Admits Immigration Bill Would Address His Post-Boston Security Concerns

BOONE, IA — After the Boston bombing, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) suggested that the immigration status of the bombing suspects would mean a challenge for the Gang of Eight’s bill before the Senate. But by Grassley’s own admission at a town hall last week, the bill already contains the answer to his criticism that the current student visa program does not track individuals, and allows them to overstay or reenter the country.

The Gang of Eight bill’s solution is to establish a biometric entry/exit visa system, so that law enforcement can track people when they exit, or overstay a visa. Currently, officials take fingerprints and photos when someone comes into the country but it has no similar exit system. The Gang of Eight bill aims to determine which individuals overstay their visa, on top of new Department of Homeland Security enforcement of checking the enrollment status of students reentering the country.

Pressed by a participant at his town hall over his reluctance to support immigration reform, Grassley returned to the same answer proposed by the Gang of Eight. Grassley somewhat reluctantly admitted that the bill designs an entry/exit system that could meet his criteria:

GRASSLEY: One went to University of Massachusetts, went home and was able to come back. It gets back to the exit/entry situation. We’ve got to have a good entry/exit.

PARTICIPANT: Wouldn’t this bill solve that?

GRASSLEY: Yes. They’re attempting to solve it with a biometric exit/entry system. If that can be put in place that will probably, for the most part, do the job.

But at least it will take a few years to get it set up and working. The way it’s set up now we’d have to do a better job.

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Grassley also noted he would not support the immigration bill as it stands. “One of the roles I hope to play next week is to remind people what we thought we were going to do to ensure people avert the 1986 law,” he said. Without directly explaining his position to his constituents, Grassley has set himself to be a chief opponent of reform, but on Thursday he maintained he has not yet made up his mind.

However, the alternative to comprehensive legislation is likely the status quo. And Grassley already acknowledged the current visa system “isn’t working very well.”