September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Lino Gutiérrez , Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Immigration Subcommittee; October 17, 2001

Effective Immigration Controls and Preventing Terrorism

Lino Gutiérrez , Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Immigration Subcommittee
Washington, DC
October 17, 2001

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the areas of cooperation between the United States and the countries of the Western Hemisphere -- in particular Canada and Mexico -- in strengthening and securing mutual borders.

In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the countries of the Americas have responded strongly and positively against international terrorism and in solidarity with the United States, and have supported our efforts to construct an international counterterrorism coalition. A tragic testimony of the degree to which our fates are linked is the list of 30 of the hemisphere's 34 nations which lost citizens in the September 11 events -- among those nations directly affected, El Salvador counts 121 dead and missing, the Dominican Republic 42, Canada 24, and Mexico 18.

The Western Hemisphere, perhaps more than any region in the world, has benefited from the free flow of trade, people and ideas, and the U.S. has been a natural focus of that flow. What the U.S. Government has discovered in the past month however, is that this flow -- in addition to creating a natural commonality of interest -- has also created a need to work closely together to better secure our mutual borders against terrorists and other criminals. We agree that strengthening the security of our borders has become an indispensable part of the nation's efforts to prevent future terrorist attacks.

Expressions of solidarity and sympathy are being matched by concrete actions by the nations of the hemisphere. Hemispheric governments are beefing up security measures, sharing intelligence, and looking at ways to improve border security. For example, on October 12, the Caribbean (CARICOM) heads of state issued an anti-terrorism declaration pledging to put in place the "necessary measures to comply with new international safety regulations on planes, at airports and sea ports." Additionally, the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE), which met in a special session on Monday, October 15, is coordinating OAS member states' efforts to reduce the ability of terrorist groups to operate in the hemisphere, including enhancing border cooperation and travel document security measures. As part of this cooperation, CICTE member states have been briefed by top U.S. and Canadian government experts in the areas of counterterrorism, terrorist financing, and border controls.

Most importantly, our shared border with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, which covers a distance of over 6,000 miles, facilitates -- under normal conditions -- the legal crossing of approximately 1.6 million people and almost $2 billion per day in trade with Canada and Mexico.

Although this impressive level of activity demonstrates the positive effects of trade and globalization, it also represents our greatest challenge: how to effectively guard against terrorism. Both Mexico and Canada are working closely with the U.S. to address these challenges.


Our cooperation with Mexico on border security has been a priority issue for many years. Even before the September 11 attacks, our efforts at working together on border security this year had intensified following the President's February trip to Mexico to meet with President Fox. Border security and safety are one of the pillars of the High Level Working Group on Migration, and both Secretary Powell and Attorney General Ashcroft have been closely engaged in the issue with their Mexican counterparts since April. Their efforts produced renewed vigor in bilateral cooperation at identifying and dismantling alien smuggling rings in Mexico, increased intelligence sharing at the border between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies, and, by means of the Border Liaison Mechanisms, resulted in improved cooperation through increased personal contact by officials on both sides of the border. The Fox Administration has shown consistently a willingness to work with us in ways not imagined as possible just a couple of years ago. The Government of Mexico responded immediately to the September 11 terrorist attacks with concrete actions to tighten border security and to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement officials.

Some examples:

  • Mexican authorities stopped two U.S. residents on September 12 entering at Mexicali with suspicious documents.

  • Mexican immigration picked up 30 individuals in Tijuana and sent them to Mexico City for questioning.

  • An additional four people were picked up September 17 in Durango for questioning.

  • Mexican authorities worked closely with their U.S. Government counterparts inside Mexico to investigate evidentiary leads such as an ice pick on a plane from the U.S., a suspicious piece of luggage with Arabic tapes and documents, and reports of suspicious crop dusters near the U.S. border.

  • The Government of Mexico offered full cooperation with FAA authorities to survey all international airports in Mexico.

  • The Mexican Government instituted special visa issuance screening procedures for nationals of over 50 countries. No visas can be issued without advance approval from officials in Mexico City.

  • The cooperation from Mexican agencies has been active and outstanding. Every law enforcement, military and intelligence entity has worked tirelessly with us. There have been dozens of leads initiated by Mexican authorities. An embassy agency head described the level of cooperation as "extraordinary."

  • We had been working with Mexican authorities prior to September 11 to encourage them to review and tighten their policies on the transit of "third country" nationals through Mexico. The Mexicans have made progress in certain areas, particularly on their southern border, with stemming the flow of immigrants transiting Mexico to the U.S. While the overwhelming majority of those who attempt to enter the U.S. do so for economic reasons, we have insisted that Mexico do more in this area to ensure that potential malafide migrants do not take advantage of alien smuggling networks to enter the U.S.

    As part of this effort, the Government of Mexico has been proactive in identifying and disrupting rings of alien smugglers on the U.S. border and throughout Mexico.


    Since September 11, Canada has become a key partner in the war on terrorism. On the day of the attacks, Canada allowed some 245 international flights, headed for the United States, to land at its airports.Upwards of 27,000 passengers, including many American citizens, were cared for by the Canadian Government and the Canadian people for several days. On the Friday following the attack, some 100,000 Canadians attended an official memorial ceremony on Ottawa's Parliament Hill to pay tribute to the victims. Currently, significant Canadian military assets, including a four-ship task force, are being folded into our military response. Canada has been a staunch and forthcoming ally.

    Other examples of Canadian cooperation include:

  • Working hand-in-hand with us on investigating literally thousands of leads in the wake of the September 11 terrorism attacks.

  • On September 12, Canadian border guards arrested a man carrying several bogus pilot licenses as he tried to enter Canada from the U.S. Canadian officials immediately handed him over to U.S. authorities.

  • Canadian authorities detained and turned over to us a passenger on a flight diverted from the U.S. to Canada on September 11 after he was found to be in the possession of several airline uniforms.

  • Canadian officials are also working closely with their U.S. counterparts to investigate the discovery of box-cutter knives found aboard an Air Canada flight scheduled to fly from Toronto to New York, but grounded at the last minute on September 11.

  • In-depth security interviews were imposed for refugee claimants in the weeks after September 11.

  • On October 12, the Canadian Government announced a $55 million (Canadian dollars) boost in the budget of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to create new border and national security teams, update forensic technology and databases, and increase protection of key sites.

  • Another $49 million package announced in Ottawa last week will provide for 100 additional immigration officers at border points, increased efforts to deport illegal entrants, and new fraud-resistant identity cards for legal immigrants.

  • Canada has announced airport improvements worth $60 million (U.S. dollars) for more bomb detectors, staff, and modernized computer systems.

  • The Canadian Government has also introduced in Parliament new anti-terrorism legislation giving police more authority to crack down on terrorists and cut off fundraising for suspected terrorist groups.

  • Our cooperation with Canada on shared border security is extensive and in-depth. Coordination is based in six bilateral fora -- Border Vision, whose overall goal is a bilateral, strategic approach to migration which will strengthen the integrity of the border through information and intelligence sharing, policy coordination, joint overseas operations and border cooperation; the Shared Border Accord, whose goal is to develop new and innovative programs that will facilitate bilateral trade and the movement of people; the Canada-U.S. Partnership, announced by the two countries' heads of government in 1999 to look at cross-border issues and provide a framework for non-federal stakeholders to air their views; the Cross-Border Crime Forum to address crime issues; the Bilateral Consultative Group on Counter-Terrorism to bring both countries' top counter-terrorism experts together annually; and the Integrated Border Enforcement Team, a bilateral, multi-agency law enforcement group of police, customs and immigration officials.

    In all of these areas, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs' most appropriate role is advocating and coordinating policy with the highest levels of Canadian political and policy decision-making. We advocate forcefully for U.S. Government policies through our embassy in Ottawa and our seven consulates across Canada. We interact daily with Canadian ministries, Parliament, the media, and the Canadian people. We have redoubled our efforts since September 11. And those efforts are paying dividends. Our Canadian friends have recognized that there are some weaknesses in their immigration law and have introduced legislation to, among other provisions, make refugee/asylum claimants excludable even if they are merely suspected of terrorist ties, and given Canadian law enforcement increased access to advance passenger information on incoming flights. And, on October 15, the Canadian government introduced in Parliament sweeping anti-terrorist legislation, which includes giving police authority to tap phones and electronic mail, and makes it a crime to harbor a terrorist. It also takes the step of making it a crime to raise funds or participate in activities of terrorist groups.

    The ability of the Canadian Government to secure its homeland will only help us in securing our homeland. A higher level of confidence about who Canada is admitting at its ports of entry would assist us greatly in allowing us to focus our northern border resources where and how they will do the most good. Canada feels the same way about us. Even greater information and intelligence sharing, and the development and sharing of new technologies, will allow both countries to focus more on the commonality of our immigration efforts. With $1.2 billion in trade crossing our mutual border daily and 200 million people annually, the goal should be to foster this invaluable flow of people and goods while also increasing safeguards against threats. We are confident that our Canadian partners share this goal, and stand ready to work with us to make it happen.


    The countries of the Western Hemisphere have demonstrated that they are important allies in the effort to condemn and combat terrorism. In addition to the numerous expressions of condolence and solidarity, events in Washington (including the invocation of the Rio Treaty by States Parties at the OAS on September 19 and the extraordinary convocation of OAS foreign ministers on September 21) were important measures of our support within the hemisphere.

    In addition, many countries in the hemisphere -- most importantly Canada and Mexico, who share our physical borders -- are working cooperatively with the U.S. to examine policies and develop efforts to strengthen border security. More needs to be done throughout the hemisphere to adopt modern investigative techniques, improve airport security, encourage countries of the region to work among themselves to share information, cooperate in law enforcement and financial investigation efforts, and monitor and suppress money laundering and alien smuggling, which are criminal activities that also provide resources and logistic support for terrorists and other malefactors. We are urging all the countries of the hemisphere to sign and ratify the 12 international conventions that address terrorist threats and to implement fully the terms of UNSC Resolution 1373 with respect to blocking terrorists' access to funds. We are a party to 10 of these conventions and have signed two: the 1998 Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the 1999 Convention on the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism Crimes. We are pleased that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is receiving testimony on these two remaining Conventions on Thursday and we urge the Senate to review and ratify them expeditiously.

    Our hemispheric commitment to confront terrorism will be demonstrated by the concrete measures we take as sovereign governments and as a community of governments to arm ourselves against this worldwide threat. We will continue to call on our hemispheric neighbors to join us in our counterterrorism efforts and in sending a unified message that these criminal activities are not welcome in our neighborhood.


    Released on October 17, 2001

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