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Tom Ridge on Immigration

Secretary of Homeland Defense; Former Republican Governor (PA)


2003: US-VISIT relying on biometric fingerprinting

Post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts led to massive backlogs of foreign visitors entering the US and to controversial registration and detention of Middle Eastern visitors. In an effort to harmonize the interests of security and commerce, in 2003 then-secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge implemented the US-VISIT program. The system relies on biometrics fingerprinting, which is used to identify everyone entering the US except short-term visitors from Mexico or Canada, comparing them with a database that by 2008 contained 90 million sets of prints. The system builds upon extensive intelligence and information sharing with foreign countries so that the border is the last rather than the 1st line of defense against terrorists.
Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p. 54 , Mar 5, 2013

No amnesty, but a path to legitimate law-abiding aliens

We will be unable to establish a 21st-century immigration policy that is sustainable if we can't find a way to deal with illegal immigration along our southern border.

It is estimated we have anywhere from 10 to 14 million illegal aliens among us. It's impossible to accept the notion that this population must be identified and deported before we enact comprehensive immigration legislation.

Let's destroy the infrastructure that treats these unsuspecting illegal immigrants like chattel, indentured servants, or slaves. We should apprehend the predators, drug runners, and thieves who are here illegally, while we find a way to legitimate the presence of those who broke our laws to get here, but who have been law-abiding ever since. This does not mean guaranteeing a path to citizenship. Congress should link strong border enforcement with a biometric-based registration system for foreign workers. Common sense and technology are required, not amnesty.

Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p.249-251 , Sep 1, 2009

INS is ineffective; US policy is confused

The INS had long been criticized as ineffective. Part of the problem was inevitable: Our national policy on immigration was (and remains) confusing and full of contradictions, assuming you agree America even has an immigration policy (which I don't). It suffered from the lack of up-to-date technology and inadequate funding.

By its own estimation, the capacity of the INS to keep track of the 600,000 students who entered the country on student visas was antiquated, and the results inaccurate, or worse.

Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p.127 , Sep 1, 2009

New visa interview policy unwisely restricts immigration

[There was] a growing problem with our new visa policies in the wake of 9/11. There is no embassy in the world that is equipped to interview everybody who applies for a visa, yet this was the new congressionally imposed policy.

A fundamental definition of America had changed. We had gone from the country which welcomed the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" [As the Emma Lazarus poem proclaims] to being, almost overnight, one of the world's most restrictive countries. We were trying to cut ourselves off from the world at the very time that it was proving both impossible and unwise to do so. The world had become interconnected--its commerce, its sciences, its personalities, its arts, its technology, its cultures.

Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p.190 , Sep 1, 2009

Share costs of legal immigration between states & federal.

Ridge adopted the National Governors Association policy:


Source: NGA policy HR-2: Immigration and Refugee Policy 01-NGA3 on Feb 15, 2001

Federal government should deal with criminal repatriation.

Ridge adopted the National Governors Association policy:



Finally, the Governors are concerned about the large number of deported felons that are returning to the United States. A significant number of the criminal alien felons housed in state prisons and local jails are previously convicted felons who reentered the United States after they were deported. The Governors urge the federal government to provide sufficient funds for proven positive identification systems, like the Automated Fingerprinting Identification System (AFIS), to allow for the expanded use of these systems in the rest of the nation.
Source: NGA policy HR-2: Immigration and Refugee Policy 01-NGA4 on Feb 15, 2001

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Immigration.
  • Click here for policy papers on Immigration.
  • Click here for a profile of Tom Ridge.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Tom Ridge.
Other candidates on Immigration: Tom Ridge on other issues:
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Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
State:John Kerry
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USDA:Tom Vilsack

First Obama Administration:
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DOT:Ray LaHood
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Page last updated: Jul 12, 2013