How Bad Is the Crisis in Illinois? It Has $14.6 Billion in Unpaid Bills
|| The Wall Street Journal
“SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—This is what happens when a major American state lets its bills stack up for two years.
Hospitals, doctors and dentists don’t get paid for hundreds of millions of dollars of patient care. Social-service agencies help fewer people. Public universities and the towns that surround them suffer. The state’s bond rating falls to near junk status. People move out.
A standoff in Illinois between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic Speaker of the House Michael Madigan over spending and term limits has left Illinois without a budget for two years. State workers and some others are still getting paid because of court orders and other stopgap measures, but bills for many others are piling up.
The unpaid backlog is now $14.6 billion and growing. Illinois is even late paying its utilities bills to Springfield, its own capital city. On July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year, billions of dollars in road projects are scheduled to grind to a halt.
“Right now, our state is in real crisis,” said Gov. Rauner last week, on the eve of a special legislative session where lawmakers are trying to hammer out an agreement before the state enters its third budgetless year.
Susana Mendoza, the state’s Democratic comptroller, is in charge of doling out limited funds to organizations demanding payment—a job she likens to handing out crumbs to starving children. She predicted unpaid bills will soon top $16 billion. “It is almost hard to say those numbers out loud because they seem so insane, but that’s where we are right now,” she says.
Illinois remains the business center of the Midwest with numerous Fortune 500 companies based in and around Chicago, major rail infrastructure and one of the nation’s busiest airports. That hasn’t stopped the deadlock from rippling through towns from Rock Island on the Mississippi River to Charleston in central Illinois. Hospitals and doctors are feeling the brunt as the state delays Medicaid payments and insurance payments for state employees.
Peoria-based OSF Healthcare, a network with 10 Illinois hospitals, is owed about $115 million for bills over four months old, the equivalent of 18 days of operating expenses, says Chief Financial Officer Michael Allen. “We have to be cautious about our future,” he says. “There’s just no end in sight.”
The state owes Illinois dentists $225 million, and some of those bills go back 23 months, according to the Illinois State Dental Society. Some dentists in college towns or other areas with lots of state workers are selling their receivables to keep their heads above water. Others are asking state employees to pay in cash, says Ronald Lynch, a dentist in Jacksonville.
“There are dentists who have to do this just to survive,” says Dr. Lynch. “It’s very stressful.” Dr. Lynch, who hasn’t asked for such cash payments, says he is owed about $250,000, forcing him to forgo a salary so he can continue to pay bills and his employees.
Health care is the capital’s biggest employer apart from the state itself. Springfield’s two hospital systems—Memorial Health and HSHS St. John’s—say they together are owed more than $200 million by the state. Edgar Curtis, Memorial Health’s chief executive, says he has put off a $100 million capital-expansion project because of the uncertainty. “We hate to see projects being shelved because of what is going on at the state level,” he says.
The Coliseum building at the state fairgrounds in Springfield closed indefinitely earlier this year after the state failed to come up with funds needed for repairs. The closure has cost the city tourism dollars from horse shows and other events.”
Sessions: Supreme Court travel ban order a victory for separation of powers
|| The Hill
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate part of President Trump’s travel ban is a victory for the separation of powers.
“Today’s order is also an important step towards restoring the separation of powers between the branches of the federal government. The Court’s decision recognizes that the Executive has the responsibility to protect the safety and security of the American people under the Constitution of the United States and its laws,” Sessions said in a statement.
“The judiciary serves, pursuant to their oath, under the same Constitution and these same laws. This case raises profound questions about the proper balance of these constitutional powers, and we are eager to advance our views on these important issues.”
The court’s decision makes it so that individuals who cannot show a relationship with a person or entity in the United States will be temporarily barred from entering the country once the court order takes effect in 72 hours.
Trump’s executive order sought to impose a temporary ban on nationals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
Sessions, in his statement, said he was pleased with the decision and argued it is “crucial” to “properly vet those seeking to come to America.”
“Through Article II of the Constitution, the founders of our country vested the Executive Branch with a great responsibility: to ensure the national security of our country,” Sessions said.
“I am committed to defending the President’s ability to exercise that responsibility and the Department of Justice is confident that the United States Supreme Court will uphold this constitutional and necessary executive order.”
The Supreme Court in its Monday decision also said it would hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court’s order that had halted the travel ban.”
Supreme Court Reinstates Part of Immigration Order In Clear Victory For Trump
“It appears that the Battle Royale over immigration is on. The Supreme Court issued the following order: “We grant the petitions for certiorari and grant the stay applications in part.” The Court also reversed in the state in the major religious clause case in Trinity Lutheran.
Here is the stay language: “We grant the Government’s applications to stay the injunctions” blocking the implementation of the ban “to the extent the injunctions prevent enforcement of Section 2(c).” Section 2(c) deals with the suspension of entry from six countries and “foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
Here is the money quote:
“An American individual or entity that has a bona fide relationship with a particular person seeking to enter the country as a refugee can legitimately claim concrete hardship if that person is excluded,” the Court wrote. “As to these individuals and entities, we do not disturb the injunction. But when it comes to refugees who lack any such connection to the United States, for the reasons we have set out, the balance tips in favor of the Government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security.”
The parties will not be affected, but it is a victory for the Trump Administration in staying those who want to come without family in the country or other bona fide relationship. As previously discussed, I believe that the odds favor the Administration in prevailing in the long run.”
The inside story of the FBI whistle-blower who accuses her bosses of ignoring warnings of 9/11. A reading of her entire memo suggests a bracing blueprint for change
|| CNN | 2002
“Few Americans love anything about their government as much as Coleen Rowley loved the FBI. When she was in the fifth grade, Rowley wrote a letter to the bureau’s headquarters in Washington and got back a booklet called 100 Facts About the FBI. From that point on, she dreamed of becoming an agent. Friends say she protested when her dean at the University of Iowa Law School refused to let an FBI recruiter on campus; she lost the battle but applied for a job on her own and was hired as a special agent after earning her law degree in 1980. She took pride in being a pioneer, part of the first wave of women fighting to be taken seriously in the bureau’s male-dominated, button-down culture. She worked her way up the ladder as an FBI lawyer–handling applications for searches and wiretaps, working organized-crime cases in New York City and becoming, in 1995, chief counsel in the Minneapolis field office. She won a reputation as a highly disciplined professional, opinionated, principled and supremely devoted to her job. For seven years in the 1990s, she doubled as chief spokeswoman for the Minneapolis office, fending off the media hordes during big cases like the 1999 arrest of St. Paul housewife Sara Jane Olson, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army who had been on the lam for two decades. Despite the stress and the risks, Rowley, a suburban mother of four, has never worked anywhere else. She is the family breadwinner, a competitive long-distance runner, a person, by all accounts, of substance.
All of which helps explain why friends and colleagues of Rowley were impressed but not altogether surprised when she put her career on the line last week to blow the whistle on the terrible failings of her beloved FBI. “She is the kind of person who always does what is right when nobody’s watching,” says one friend. “That is why she came out.” American life seems uniquely capable of producing stories like hers–a loyal public servant who clings to her belief in the system until a betrayal of that faith makes it impossible to stay silent. Rowley, unable to sleep at 3 a.m. one night in early May, drove to the office and wrote the first draft of a memo. She spent a week fine-tuning it, setting it aside for days, anguishing and at times doubting whether she could go through with it. Summoning her courage last Tuesday, she at last fired off the 13-page letter (“from the heart,” she writes) to her ultimate boss, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and flew to Washington to hand-deliver copies to two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and meet with committee staffers. The letter accuses the bureau of deliberately obstructing measures that could have helped disrupt the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI responded by marking the letter CLASSIFIED.
The product of months of gathering frustration, Rowley’s memo–a full copy of which was obtained by TIME–unspools in furious detail how, in the weeks leading up to the hijackings, officials at FBI headquarters systematically dismissed and undermined requests from Rowley’s Minneapolis field office for permission to obtain a warrant to wiretap and search the computer and belongings of Zacarias Moussaoui, the French-Moroccan operative arrested in Minnesota last August and facing trial this fall as the sole person charged with conspiring in the attacks. Rowley asserts that the FBI didn’t “do much” to share information about Moussaoui with other government agencies or to match the evidence that Moussaoui took pilot lessons with an earlier report from a Phoenix field agent raising suspicions about Middle Eastern men enrolled in flight school. In Rowley’s view, bureaucratic incompetence stalled an investigation that may have led closer to the black heart of Osama bin Laden’s plot. “It’s at least possible we could have gotten lucky and uncovered one or two more of the terrorists in flight training prior to Sept. 11,” Rowley writes. “There is at least some chance that…may have limited the Sept. 11th attacks and resulting loss of life.”
Like no other document to emerge from the current firestorm over the mistakes and missed signals that led to Sept. 11, the Rowley memo casts a searing light into the depths of government ineptitude. In Washington, where the FBI and CIA may be criticized but are allowed to clean up their own messes as they see fit, the memo sent shudders through the establishment for a simple reason: it came from within. If Rowley’s account is accurate–and colleagues say she’s not one for shading the truth–her letter amounts to a colossal indictment of our chief law-enforcement agency’s neglect in the face of the biggest terrorist operation ever mounted on U.S. soil. It raises serious doubts about whether the FBI is capable of protecting the public–and whether it still deserves the public’s trust. While saying she does not believe the FBI director engaged in a post-9/11 cover-up, Rowley accuses Mueller and senior aides of having “omitted, downplayed, glossed over and / or mischaracterized” her office’s investigation of Moussaoui. After Sept. 11, top FBI officials decided to “circle the wagons,” as she puts it, and deny–as Mueller did immediately after the attacks–that the FBI had any knowledge that Islamic terrorists might be planning an attack involving hijacked airplanes. “I have deep concerns,” she writes, “that a delicate shading/skewing of facts by you and others at the highest levels of FBI management has occurred and is occurring.” Just 2 1/2 years from retirement, Rowley is now fretting about reprisals, friends say. She closes her letter by acknowledging “the frankness with which I have expressed myself” and asking for federal whistle-blower protection.”
The American people had damn near an absolute right to know this information.
“It so happens that Friday is an official Ratfcking Holiday, and a very important one. It’s June 23 or, as we who celebrate it like to call it, Smoking Gun Day. It was 45 years ago to the day that H.R. Haldeman stopped by the Oval Office and, with a tape recorder whirring merrily away in a drawer, he and Richard Nixon discussed how to get the CIA to turn off the FBI’s investigation of Watergate because that investigation was moving into “some productive areas.” They talked about ripping scabs open, and “that whole Bay of Pigs thing,” and having Walters tell Gray not to go into this thing any further, period. “All I can conclude,” Patrick Buchanan reportedly said when this tape finally came to light, “is that the old man has been shitting us.”
So, in honor of the day, The Washington Post comes up with an amazing tale of the way ratfcking is done in the modern era. It begins with a top-secret communique delivered to President Barack Obama last August.
Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
The dynamite, she go boom.
At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.
I seem to remember this remarkable coincidence.
The piece is too long, too well reported, and too detailed to summarize in block quotes, but what it makes sadly clear is that the culture of secrecy within the intelligence community worked invariably to empower the ratfcking, rather than to hinder it.
This, right here. This is where they choked. The American people had damned close to an absolute right to the information their government already had. The most fundamental act of citizenship is the right to cast an informed vote. The idea that the Obama administration withheld the fact that the Russians were ratfcking the election in order to help elect a vulgar talking yam is a terrible condemnation of the whole No Drama Obama philosophy. Would Donald Trump have raised hell if the White House released what it knew? Of course, he would have. But, as it was, the American people went to vote with only about half of the information they needed to assess his candidacy. This was a terrible decision.”
Outsourcing Firm Infosys Discriminates in Favor of Indians, Says Lawsuit
“The multi-billion dollar outsourcing firm Infosys discriminates against whites and African-Americans while favoring Indian nationals, according to a former employee.
In a newly filed lawsuit against Infosys, former executive Erin Green, who worked at the outsourcing firm between 2011 and 2016, says the company favors Indian nationals over other racial groups:
Infosys maintains roughly 200,000 employees working in the United States. While roughly 1% of the U. S. population is of the South Asian race and national origin, roughly 93%-94% of Infosys’s United States workforce is of the South Asian national origin (primarily Indian). This disproportionately South Asian and Indian workforce, by race and national origin, is a result of Infosys’s intentional employment discrimination against individuals who are not South Asian, including discrimination in the hiring, promotion, compensation and termination of individuals.
While the lawsuit does not allege any specific abuses of the H-1B or L-1 visa, where hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals are allowed to enter the U.S. every year, Green does note that the visa was used to increase Infosys’ already large Indian workforce:
Infosys has gone to great lengths to obtain its primarily South Asian work force in the U. S., in particular by utilizing professional H-1B and L-1 work visas to bring South Asians (primarily Indians) into the United States to work in information technology (“IT”) consulting roles, as its IT consulting business model dictates, and other non-IT capacities, including to replace or supplant non-South Asians. Plaintiff’s career at Infosys exemplifies the systematic pattern of discrimination at Infosys.
White and black employees at Infosys, according to Green’s lawsuit, were hardly ever promoted and even had their evaluations downgraded compared to their Indian national counterparts.
In a more specific case in 2015, Green claims Nayak “verbally assaulted and berated” his white subordinate during a conference call, bringing the woman to tears in front of fellow colleagues and Indian nationals employed at Infosys.
Within the H-1B visa industry, young, male Indian nationals are favored than any other cohort, according to research by the Center for Immigration Studies. Nearly 70 percent of all H-1B visa-holders are from India.”
Federal ‘OPT’ Program Rewards Companies For Hiring 330,000 Foreign College Grads in 2016 instead of citizens
“The federal government quietly helped and rewarded companies and universities which hired roughly 330,000 cheap foreign graduates in 2016 instead of hiring American graduates, many of whom are deep in debt.
The little-known “Optional Practical Training” program has grown from 91,140 new foreign job-seekers in 2009 to 329,158 new job-seekers in 2016, according to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security. That is almost a four-fold increase in seven years — and the program is growing even larger in 2017.
There is no cap on the OPT program, which quietly and semi-automatically gives work permits lasting up to three years when requested by foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities and colleges. Companies are not required to even interview Americans before hiring OPT graduates — and they get tax breaks for hiring foreigners over Americans.
“The government is enticing employers to hire foreigners instead of Americans … it is ridiculous,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies. Even the middle-class Americans who have downplayed the impact of cheap-labor immigration on blue-collar Americans should be alarmed by the government’s discrimination against their own college-graduate children, he added.
In 2014, the OPT program provided work permits to 249,998 foreign graduates, according to the data provided to Breitbart News by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the program. Two years later, the number of new foreign graduates entering the program had risen by 32 percent up to 329,158.
The program provides a one-year work permit to all graduates. It also provides an extra one-year permit to graduates who work in a so-called high-tech “STEM” job. In 2016, officials working for former President Barack Obama extended the STEM permits from one year to two years. If only 20,000 of the 51,672 STEM workers from 2015 used Obama’s one-year extension, they would have increased the 2016 total from 329,158 up to 350,000.
That 350,000 estimate for 2016 means that the government is offering work permits to one foreign graduate for almost every two of the 800,000 young Americans who graduate from college each year with high-skilled degrees in business or medicine, science or software, math or physics.
The OPT program will likely grow to 500,000 foreign workers in 2020 unless it is killed by a pending lawsuit.
Under the new transparency rules established by DHS secretary John Kelly, DHS officials also provided Breitbart with the initial OPT numbers for 2017. That data showed the OPT program in the first half of 2017 by giving work permits to 255,412 foreign students, including 57,315 high-skill technology graduates. That half-year number for 2017 is larger than the 2014 total.
These high numbers likely understate the scale of the OPT outsourcing program, because the federal government also allows foreign students to get a one-year work permit via the “Curriculum Practical Training” program before they graduate into the OPT program. If 100,000 students used that CPT program in 2016, then the combined CPT and OPT programs delivered almost 450,000 white-collar American jobs to foreign students and graduates in 2016.
The annual inflow of new foreign OPT workers is now roughly three times larger than the annual inflow of 110,000 H-1B white-collar contract workers. However, the H-1B program offers longer visas to foreign workers, so it keeps a larger population of roughly 650,000 foreign white-collar workers in the United States, compared to roughly 35o,000 OPT workers.
The H-1B visas help companies hire foreign white-collar workers to take the place of the experienced American professionals who need decent salaries to help support and educate their children.
Who is impacted?
Many American college graduates are threatened by OPT, partly because the program allows foreign students to take any job, but also because the government grants three-year work permits to students who take “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” jobs — but those STEM jobs are very expansively described. They include:
The OPT program is also a threat to upward mobility because it is increasingly being used to outsource community college technician jobs — such as nursing — which are the primary upward path for Americans born into lower-income families. The DHS list of STEM jobs also includes more than 50 types of technical jobs, including:
Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering Technology/Technician … solar energy … welding … industrial production … quality control … automotive engineering … [and] biology.”
Many recent graduates were hurt long-term by the slump, according to a 2014 Pew study:
In a recent report, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York went deeper and looked at underemployment among recent grads (defined as people aged 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor’s degree). The Fed researchers used data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to examine whether employed grads were in jobs that typically required a college degree, what those jobs paid, and whether they were working full- or part-time. They found that in 2012, about 44% of grads were working in jobs that didn’t require a college degree — a rate that, while about what it was in early 1990s, increased after the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions. Only 36% of that group were in what the researchers called “good non-college jobs” — those paying around $45,000 a year — down from around half in the 1990s. The share of underemployed recent grads in low-wage (below $25,000) jobs rose from about 15% in 1990 to more than 20%. About one-in-five (23%) underemployed recent grads were working part-time in 2011, up from 15% in 2000.
Other reports emphasize negative and positive prospects for recent college grads as the nation emerges from a decade-long slump.
Critically, the OPTs compete with new American graduates and nudge down the Americans’ starting salaries — which can have a huge impact on their lifetime earnings, say salary experts:
“Maximizing your first salary is really important because it determines your salary for the rest of your life,” says Matt Wallaert, chief scientist at GetRaised.com … “Your final salary is heavily dependent on your starting salary,” agrees Glenn Hiemstra, the founder of Futurist.com,
Moreover, many U.S. graduates are defaulting on college loan debts owed to the U.S. government because they cannot find well-paying jobs.
Joseph Palos, a high-tech graduate from Cornell University, formally objected to the OPT program in 2015. ”Companies don’t want to hire Americans and they abuse… OPT to hire cheap immobile labor instead of hiring anyone over the age of 35, especially in software or tech areas,” he wrote to a federal agency, according to a report in ComputerWorld.
Which companies hire OPTs?
Most universities and colleges hide useful data about their OPT programs from their American students, the tuition-paying parents and the voting public.
But a Breitbart search of the data revealed that Penn State posted a list of companies which hire OPT and other foreign graduates. The companies include accounting firms Deloitte & Touché LLP plus Ernst & Young, LLP, as well as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and the GE Global Research Center in New York. Other OPT employers included Advanced Micro Devices in Sunnyvale, Calif., Intel in Arizona, Motorola in Florida, Nokia in Texas, and Microsoft in Washington State, plus Cadbury Schweppes in New Jersey, Glaxo Smith Kline in Philadelphia, Hyatt Hotels in Washington D.C., Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, Penske Logistics in Ohio, and the Environmental Systems Research Institute in Redlands, Ca.
The Penn State list also includes many universities, many of which can keep cheap OPTs on the payroll for several years by converting them into H-1B employees. There are no limits on universities’ hiring of H-1Bs.
There’s not much reason to blame the companies for hiring OPTs, said Krikorian. By reducing employers’ taxes and subsidizing OPT employees’ pay with a chance to win green cards, “the government is encouraging these employers to hire foreign workers,” he said.
Who supports the OPT program?
Unsurprisingly, the semi-secret OPT program has intense behind-the-scenes support in Washington.
First, the OPT program — like the similar H-1B and H-2B programs — are strongly supported by business groups because they provide very cheap, compliant and disposable workers:
When a job is given to an OPT worker, neither the worker nor the employers have to pay Social Security or Medicare taxes. That tax break cuts the company’s salary costs for that foreign worker by roughly 23 percent.
When a foreign students seeks a job, Americans lose bargaining power to get decent wages for that jobs. Nationalwide, the extra inflow of immigrant labor annually transfers roughy $500 billion from employees to employers, accordin to data in the 2016 report on immigration by the National Acadeimes of Sciences.
The OPT jobs put the foreign graduates on the first step towards citizenship, which is a hugely valuable deferred bonus student studemt her overseas fmaily and their descedents in perpetuity. In effect, the federal government provides OPT workers a free lottery ticket for the prize of citizenship if they work for the pay and conditions set by the employer. But this is also a huge hidden subsidy for employers who hire foreigners instead of Americans because it allows employers to pay foreigners with hope of citizenship, while Americans must be paid in dollars.
Also, the OPT employers is heavily dependent on the employer to put him or her the next step on the path to citizenship, ensuring a compliant attitude despute low-pay and long hours. The next step is usually a H-1B visa, which requires the employer to ask the govrenment for the visa.
The OPT program adds a small but useful addition to the number of native-born and immigrant consumers who buy products in hte U.S. economy.”
Soros Legal Alum Helps Get Illegal Alien MS-13 Member Released
“An illegal alien MS-13 gang member was released by a federal judge after two immigration attorneys lobbied for his release.
U.S. District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon ordered the 17-year-old, self-admitted illegal alien MS-13 gang member be released from federal custody, despite his criminal and gang-affiliated history.
The illegal alien previously admitted to selling drugs in Honduras and witnessing multiple murders committed by fellow MS-13 members. Now, he will be allowed to live freely in the U.S.
In an interview with the Washington Post, the illegal alien spoke about how being a member of the violent MS-13 gang felt like a family:
“It was like the family I couldn’t find at home,” he said. “I thought nobody loved me. But when I found them, I said, ‘This is my family. They love me.’ ”
Older gang members gave him money, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. But soon they demanded he sell drugs, too, including heroin and “piedra,” or crack.
“I began to see things, like them torturing people,” the teen said. “For rent. Because they belonged to another gang. Because they had screwed up somehow.”
The illegal alien gang member arrived in the U.S. as an ‘unaccompanied minor child,’ who are turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
As Breitbart Texas reported, the federal government has continued placing unaccompanied minor children in MS-13 gang hot-spots across the U.S.
One of the two attorneys who helped fight for the MS-13 gang member’s release, Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg and Rebecca Wolozin with the Legal Aid Justice Center, has ties to left-wing billionaire George Soros.
Wolozin previously worked for Soros’ Open Society Foundation as a ‘Legal Research Intern,’ according to her online resume.”
Cost Disputes Could Derail Plans To Track Foreign Departures In US Airports
“The federal government has developed a system to track foreigners leaving the country through U.S. airports, but disputes with airlines may prevent the timely application of the technology.
The new tracking system would rely on photographs taken of all passengers boarding international flights at their departure gate, allowing authorities to know with certainty whether a foreigner has left the country and where they went.
After nearly two decades spent developing technology to track individuals who enter the U.S. legally and then stay past their legal departure date, and repeated congressional mandates demanding an exit tracking system, the federal government has met resistance from airlines who don’t see the benefit of implementing it.
“Right now, there is no benefit to us. We’re not interested in adding another 10 minutes to the boarding process,” one airline official told the Wall Street Journal in Monday article.
John Wagner, who heads the program for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection agency told a congressional committee last month that DHS needs to rely on airlines to run the cameras in order to avoid an “astronomical” cost to taxpayers.
“We’re out of time and we’re out of excuses,” Wagner said. “We can’t do this without the airlines.”
Wagner also disputed the claim that the new system will inconvenience airlines, pointing out that the new technology would eliminate the necessity of checking passports.
Airline officials denied the technology would allow them to stop checking passports, saying they still have a responsibility to make sure passengers aren’t flown into other countries without identification.
The exit tracking system, which has received bipartisan support, would prevent individuals from remaining in the country illegally by having someone else exit using their passport. It would also prevent people from leaving the country undetected by using someone else’s passport.
In the past two years hundreds of thousands of people have overstayed their visas. This problem received significant congressional attention after the September 11 attacks when it was discovered several of the hijackers were in the country on expired visas.
The DHS has run a number of exit tracking pilot programs at various airports around the country. The central obstacle the department faced was determining a method to make sure individuals reported as having departed the country actually boarded the flights they were supposed to be on.
There is ample opportunity for someone to get through security and then simply leave the airport, since travelers pass through airport security checkpoints well before they reach their departure gate. The DHS successfully navigated this obstacle by developing a plan in which cameras are installed in departure gates. The cameras would scan passengers faces directly prior to boarding, the system would then cross references the images with the list of passengers who are supposed to be on the flight, confirming the individual boarded their flight.
Wagner explained that he hopes airlines will cooperate in implementing the technology but said the DHS must implement the programs with or without their cooperation. “Congress has been pretty clear about the requirement,” he told the Wall Street Journal.”