Fearing gridlock at the border, Congress has delayed a law requiring new, stricter checks at frontier crossings.
Stopgap legislation to delay the law until Oct. 15 sailed through the House and Senate by voice vote Thursday, and President Clinton is expected to sign it. But lawmakers are still arguing about the details of a more permanent legislative fix.Senators and congressmen from states bordering Canada are pushing to repeal the law, while the House is on record supporting a one-year delay.
"Make no mistake, if the House doesn't take timely action repealing the law, the repercussions for U.S.-Canadian travel, trade and tourism will be immediate and disastrous," said Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., author of the stopgap legislation and chairman of the Senate immigration sub-committee.
Lawmakers delayed implementation of the provision of the 1996 immigration law on the day it was to take effect. But federal officials said there would be no changes in border inspections in the near future because the law requires massive new systems and manpower.
"Nothing will change with our inspection process," said Elaine Komis, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. "We don't even have the infrastructure to begin to do this."
The law, known as Section 110, requires use of a computer system that automatically collects records of all foreigners arriving and departing the United States so it can identify those overstaying their visas.