AIRLINES, LATELY MORE diligent about keeping passport- and visa-less aliens from scamming their way into the country, aren't getting much credit from Congress. Many lawmakers want to raise the fine--from $3,000 to $5,000--that carriers pay each time Immigration & Naturalization Service officials discover an undocumented foreigner. Since 1992, revenue from fines has dropped 37%, to $13.4 million last year, as the airlines screened passengers more effectively. Grouses William Noonan, an Air Transport Assn. spokesman: "They may be trying to get the revenue back up."
Lawmakers say they want to goad foreign airlines--seen as less watchful than U.S. ones--into cracking down on all the dodges. A common ploy: A foreigner boards the plane using fake papers that won't withstand Immigration scrutiny, ditches them before landing, and once on U.S. soil, demands political asylum.