20 October 2010

Homeland Security Secretary: US Visa reform would help border enforcement

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The Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said an overhaul of US immigration laws is a chance to strengthen enforcement tools, such as toughening penalties against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.

US Visa

US Visa issues should be addressed legally through an immigration reform bill, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said.

The former Arizona governor and state attorney general said strengthening US Visa rules also could lead to more high-tech resources to ensure visitors to the United States don't overstay their visas.

“There are areas in terms of visas and visa overstays, again, that should be addressed legally through an immigration reform bill,” Napolitano said.

“We need a new legislative framework from which to act. It’s the 21st century. We need a bill that builds for that.”

While much of the public debate about immigration reform has focused on people who aspire to become legal residents or citizens and a possible amnesty program for illegal immigrants currently in the country, but Napolitano said that immigration issue is also about homeland security.

Napolitano said US is doing much more than before to check the background of US visa applicants before they enter the country but that “we don’t have the capacity yet to monitor every visa overstaying and find them.”

US immigration reform has been postponed at least until after the November elections.

Under Napolitano, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has increased the number of I-9 audits, in which agents review whether employers are properly verifying the legal status of employees in an effort to crack down on businesses that are knowingly hiring illegal workers to save money.

In extreme cases, businesses placed under criminal prosecutions can face fines, criminal charges, debarment and substantial forfeiture of assets, but these penalties have not been enough, Napolitano said.

“It’s not really a deterrent for somebody who is making a lot of money off of illegal labor,” she said.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their ESTA application to the US Embassy.

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