WASHINGTON - Sen. John Cornyn today suggested that the federal government should model its biometrics system on the one used by Walt Disney World, saying if the system is "good enough for the Magic Kingdom, they ought to be good enough for the United States."
The Republican from Texas brought up the theme park at today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the immigration reform bill, during discussion of an amendment proposed by proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on the need for a biometrics for entry/exit system.
"[Sen. Marco] Rubio shared with me that Walt Disney World uses a biometric system in Florida to make sure people don't commit ticket fraud," Cornyn said during the hearing. "If they are that easy, affordable and good enough for the Magic Kingdom, they ought to be good enough for the United States. Senator Sessions' amendment would guarantee they would not be eligible for lawful citizenship until there is a biometric entry/exit system."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of the Gang of 8 members who drafted the bill, responded that Disney only has "two ports of entry, one in Florida and one in California. … We have 329 ports of entry in the United States, which include land, sea and air … a more daunting task than it is at Disney World or Disney Land."
Current law, in place since 1996 and strengthened after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, already calls for an entry/exit biometrics system, but it has proven expensive and difficult to implement. The bill as drafted calls for the screening of visa photo IDs for those entering the country, putting the information in a database that must be matched at the time of exit. The biometric system proposed by Sessions calls for the addition of fingerprinting and iris scans.
Durbin conceded that the biometric approach is a "more sophisticated and better approach," but that it is also "allusive."
Fellow gang of eight member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., agreed with Durbin, calling current law a "concept."
"There is apparently not a whole lot of will by Republicans or Democrats to make the concept a reality," Graham said. "What we've done is taken the current system and made it better."
Sessions accused the Gang of 8 members who are in the committee of being in cahoots to only pass the amendments they see fit.
"They met, continue to meet. And they decide which amendments are going to live and die. … And this one is going to die, apparently," he said referring to his biometric entry/exit amendment.
After the amendment failed, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., offered to work with Sessions to possibly offer an addendum that would require biometric screening at some point in the future.
When Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another Gang of 8 member who is not on the committee, heard of the failed amendment a spokesman for his office told ABC News they were "disappointed by this morning's vote."
"Senator Rubio will fight to add biometrics to the exit system when the bill is amended on the Senate floor," Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said. "Having an exit system that utilizes biometric information will help make sure that future visitors to the United States leave when they are supposed to."
In what could be dubbed the biggest upset of the immigration hearing, another amendment proposed by Sessions that would dramatically restrict future flow of immigration by limiting "the number of non-immigrant aliens who may be authorized for employment in the United States" was voted down 17-1.
The Alabama Senator spoke the longest this morning on the importance of the bill saying it was the one he was "most engaged on" and that the "American people need to know." Even so, he ended up being the only one to vote for the amendment.
Sessions argued that restrictions needed to be made to ensure jobs for native born.
Graham countered, citing the number of baby boomers who will be retiring in the near future and the need for immigrants to fill the void that will be left.
As of afternoon today, six amendments had been adopted and two failed during the committee's immigration mark-up. Of those six, two were amendments that were withdrawn at least weeks hearing to be worked on and readdressed today: an amendment by Feinstein that would restrict drones from flying fly more than three miles past the border in San Diego and El Centro sectors, and one offered by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., that limit would dangerous deportation practices.
The six amendments that passed so far today went through on an easy voice vote. An additional three amendments were introduced by Senator Lee only to be withdrawn as a demonstration of what a piece-meal immigration bill would look like.
That means, so far, in the two days of markups 44 of the more than 300 amendments submitted to the 800+ page bill have been addressed.