U.S Senator Cornyn introduces bill to grant Laser Visa holders from Mexico parity with Canadians

WASHINGTON, DC-- U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee, on Monday, January 29, 2007 introduced legislation permitting laser visa holders—temporary, fully screened travelers from Mexico—to stay in the United States up to six months.

The Secure Border Crossing Card Entry Act of 2007 extends the length of stay for these visitors from 30 days to six months, or parity with Canadians. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is an original co-sponsor of the legislation. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, was set to introduce a companion bill in the House.

“As we work to secure our border and implement broader immigration reforms, we must balance security with legitimate trade and travel,” Sen. Cornyn said. “Laser visa holders are fully screened before being issued secure travel documents and are checked again at the border. Many of them come here to do business and spend money, which boosts the economy in South Texas and contributes to job creation. So this bill maintains security, grows the economy and promotes fairness.”

Sen. Cornyn added: “I hope we see a renewed push this year to achieve comprehensive border security and immigration reform and that we work together in a bipartisan manner to achieve it. This bill is one step in that process, and I ask my colleagues to support it.”

“Laser visa holders undergo a thorough security screening process before they enter the U.S. Providing them the same length-of-stay opportunities as Canadian visitors is good security and economic policy,” Sen. Hutchison said. “These visitors make a significant contribution to the strength of the South Texas economy. Extending the length of their secure visas supports the area’s economic needs without compromising our security.”

In 2004, Sen. Cornyn was successful in working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to extend the length of stay for Mexican nationals with laser visa border crossing cards from three to 30 days. Sen. Cornyn hosted a meeting with Secretary Chertoff earlier this month to renew his push for the extension to full parity.

The current system allows visitors who possess a machine-readable border crossing card, also known as the laser visa, to enter this country for up to 30 days. The laser visa is issued by the State Department to Mexican nationals, but only after they have been screened and determined not to be a security risk or inadmissible to the United States. Laser visa holders are screened again when they come to the border and are inspected by an immigration inspector.

Canadian visitors, on the other hand, can remain in the U.S. for up to six months. Sen. Cornyn said, “I see no reason that we should treat citizens and nationals of our northern neighbor differently from our southern neighbor. The goal of this bill is to treat all citizens and nationals of our northern and southern neighbors seeking to temporarily visit the U.S. the same—allowing them to temporarily visit or conduct business in the U.S. for up to six months. And, because laser visa holders must undergo background checks before they are issued their secure travel documents, this policy change would not conflict with our country’s goal of improving border security. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”

Below is a summary of the Secure Border Crossing Card Entry Act of 2007:

* Modifies the Immigration and Nationality Act to ensure that Mexicans with border crossing cards (laser visas) who have completed security screening receive the same period of time in the U.S. as Canadians—six months.

* Retains the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authority to set, by regulation, the length of time such individuals can be in United States.

* Gives the Secretary of Homeland Security flexibility to shorten or lengthen admission periods on a case-by-case basis if good cause exists.

* Bars eligibility for the six-month admission period if the foreign national is inadmissible, has previously violated his or her nonimmigrant status, or the laser visa was not processed through a machine reader at the U.S. port of entry or land border.

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee and the Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee.

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