The Refugee Crisis Must Not Undermine U.S. National Security

America's enemies cannot be permitted to turn our compassion into a weapon against us.

The Middle East has become a roiling cauldron as multiple and often competing terror groups continue their bloody rampages throughout that embattled region of the world. 

By its words and deeds – or more properly, by lack of deeds – the Obama administration created a power vacuum.  The situation was further exacerbated when the president drew “lines in the sand” and demonstrated an abject lack of resolve when he failed to act when those lines were crossed.  

Negotiations must always be conducted from a position of strength, however, the administration’s posture and apparent lack of resolve projected anything but strength.

Our adversaries respect strength and, conversely, become emboldened when we demonstrate weakness.

Radical Islamists saw opportunities in all of the above and ISIS pushed on with its plans to create a Caliphate.  Today huge numbers of people are understandably fleeing the violence and chaos that has enveloped Syria and other parts of the Middle East.  

I am certainly sympathetic to the plight of refugees.  My grandmother (my mother’s mother for whom I was named), was slaughtered during the Holocaust in Poland because we are Jews.  In point of fact, many of my mother’s family died during the Holocaust.  My first wife died of cancer 30 years ago.  Her mother (my mother-in-law) had been held in a concentration camp in Poland during the Holocaust while her father lived in forests, always somehow managing to stay one step ahead of the Nazis, although many of his family members were caught and killed during World War II.

However, the undeniable problem we now face is that there is no reliable way to vet these refugees.  This is hardly a minor problem.  Isis and other terror organizations have made it clear that their goal is to attack our nation and ultimately fly their flag over the White House.

On September 20, 2013 Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) posted my article, Comprehensive Immigration Reform:  Background Checks Require a Reality Check.”  In my article I presented my “insider’s” perspectives about just how difficult it is for the various federal agencies, especially  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Benefits (USCIS), to effectively screen applications filed by millions of aliens who seek various immigration benefits.  Because the number of alien applicants is so huge, most often applications are adjudicated without so much as a face-to-face interview, let alone an actual field investigation.

On November 10, 2014 Newsweek Magazine published a disturbing report, “Inside the CIA’s Syrian Rebels Vetting Machine.”  The article focused on the utter ineptitude in the program by which the CIA attempted to vet a force of only 5,000 Syrians they recruited to fight against terrorists.  

Here is how this important article begins:

Nothing has come in for more mockery during the Obama administration’s halting steps into the Syrian civil war than its employment of “moderate” to describe the kind of rebels it is willing to back. In one of the more widely cited japes, The New Yorker’s resident humorist, Andy Borowitz, presented a “Moderate Syrian Application Form,” in which applicants were asked to describe themselves as either “A) Moderate, B) Very moderate, C) Crazy moderate or D) Other.”

After Senator John McCain allegedly posed with Syrians “on our side” who turned out to be kidnappers—a report later called into question—Jon Stewart cracked, “Not everyone is going to be wearing their ‘HELLO I’M A TERRORIST’ name badge.”

Behind the jokes, however, is the deadly serious responsibility of the CIA and Defense Department to vet Syrians before they receive covert American training, aid and arms. But according to U.S. counterterrorism veterans, a system that worked pretty well during four decades of the Cold War has been no match for the linguistic, cultural, tribal and political complexities of the Middle East, especially now in Syria. “We’re completely out of our league,” one former CIA vetting expert declared on condition of anonymity, reflecting the consensus of intelligence professionals with firsthand knowledge of the Syrian situation. “To be really honest, very few people know how to vet well. It’s a very specialized skill. It’s extremely difficult to do well” in the best of circumstances, the former operative said. And in Syria it has proved impossible.

Daunted by the task of fielding a 5,000-strong force virtually overnight, the Defense Department and CIA field operatives, known as case officers, have largely fallen back on the system used in Afghanistan, first during the covert campaign to rout the Soviet Red Army in the 1980s and then again after the 2001 U.S. invasion to expel Al-Qaeda: Pick a tribal leader who in turn recruits a fighting force. But these warlords have had their own agendas, including drug-running, and shifting alliances, sometimes collaborating with terrorist enemies of the United States, sometimes not. 

“Vetting is a word we throw a lot around a lot, but actually very few people know what it really means,” said the former CIA operative, who had several postings in the Middle East for a decade after the 911 attacks. “It’s not like you’ve got a booth set up at a camp somewhere. What normally happens is that a case officer will identify a source who is a leader in one of the Free Syrian Army groups. And he’ll say, ‘Hey…can you come up with 200 [guys] you can trust?’ And of course they say yes—they always say yes. So Ahmed brings you a list and the details you need to do the traces,” the CIA’s word for background checks. “So you’re taking that guy’s word on the people he’s recruited. So we rely on a source whom we’ve done traces on to do the recruiting. Does that make sense?”

No, says former CIA operative Patrick Skinner, who still travels the region for the Soufan Group, a private intelligence organization headed by FBI, CIA and MI6 veterans. “Syria is a vetting nightmare,” he told Newsweek, “with no way to discern the loyalties of not only those being vetted but also of those bringing the people to our attention.”

A particularly vivid example was provided recently by Peter Theo Curtis, an American held hostage in Syria for two years. A U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) unit that briefly held him hostage casually revealed how it collaborated with Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, even after being “vetted” and trained by the CIA in Jordan, he wrote in The New York Times Magazine.

“About this business of fighting Jabhat al-Nusra?” Curtis said he asked his FSA captors.

“Oh, that,” one said. “We lied to the Americans about that.”

On September 12, 2015 Fox News posted a Wall Street Journal article, “Refugees pose as Syrians to open door to asylum in Europe,” which reported on how many of the aliens who have poured into Europe claiming to be refugees from Syria are actually citizens of other countries who are seizing the opportunity to falsely claim to be Syrians to be granted asylum in Europe.  This level of chaos could easily enable a relative handful of terrorists from a wide variety of countries to conceal themselves in this human tsunami.  

What is happening in Europe mirrors what will happen in the United States as the administration moves to admit tens of thousands of refugees. 

Here is how this Wall Street Journal report begins:

At Budapest’s Keleti Train Station last week, Mahmoud, a Syrian from Aleppo, looked around the underground concourse packed with new arrivals like himself. Judging from their accents and dialects, he reckoned that little more than 10 percent of them were Syrian. But he saw many more passing themselves off as Syrians.

Indeed, during his journey through Greece and the Balkans on his way to Hungary, “I found a bunch of Iraqis buying fake Syrian passports,” said Mahmoud, adding that now Syrians “are worried that their passports are being stolen.” Nearby, a countryman furtively showed his passport, tucked between the sole and padding of one of his sneakers.

As Europe moves to take in large numbers of refugees, particularly from Syria, some other migrants—often Iraqis, Libyans, Palestinians and Egyptians—are attempting to pass themselves off as Syrian, said aid workers, government officials and fellow migrants.

The trend is causing tensions between Syrians and migrants of other nationalities, as well as headaches for officials sifting through huge numbers of applicants to root out impostors.

The masquerade also risks undermining political support for the European Union’s open-door policy, with anti-immigrant parties in many countries ready to denounce the presence of economic migrants amid the wave of refugees. Of the 381,000 people who have landed in Italy and Greece this year—the two main entry points of the current wave of migrants—50 percent are Syrian, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Because of the war in their country, Syrians are considered prima facie refugees under international law, meaning they don’t need to present further evidence to qualify for protected status.

Even as the United States negotiates an ill-conceived nuclear treaty with Iran, the leaders of Iran have led huge throngs of their citizens in chanting, “Death to America!”  They have also taken to chanting the refrain, “Death to Israel!”  Their Qodz Forces (Shock Troops) are active in Latin America, flying from Tehran, Iran directly into Caracas, Venezuela on regular flights.

We need to take our enemies at their word – yet the administration seems unable or unwilling to hear the chants or read the signs the protestors carry.

I have consistently told members of Congress, whether during my appearances at congressional hearings or during private meetings, that the findings and recommendations and findings of the 911 Commission must serve as the starting point for any discussion about immigration reform and immigration policies.  Those findings and recommendations must also guide our nation’s response to the refugee crisis in the Middle East.

The Summer Edition of the quarterly journal, The Social Contract included my paper, “The 911 Commission Report and Immigration: An Assessment, Fourteen Years after the Attacks.”

Here is an excerpt from my article:

On February 11, 2014, a hearing was conducted by the House Judiciary Committee on the issue: “Asylum Fraud: Abusing America’s Compassion?”

On December 12, 2013, a hearing was conducted by that same committee on the issue: “Asylum Abuse: Is it Overwhelming our Borders?”

Both hearings made it clear that there is a serious lack of integrity to the political asylum program. This important humanitarian program processes thousands of applications each year. Yet, the fraud rate in this program bears witness to the lack of integrity. Because USCIS cannot effectively identify fraud and take measures to counter this fraud, national security is compromised.

Furthermore, as more aliens succeed in gaming this program by committing fraud that goes undetected, more aliens are emboldened to file fraud-laden applications further increasing the workload of the beleaguered adjudications officers at USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) the division of the Department of Homeland Security that is charged with adjudicating more than 6 million applications for a wide array of immigration benefits each year.

These applications are filed by aliens seeking authorization to extend their period of stay in the United States, alien who are apply for political asylum based on claims “credible fear” that they cannot safely return to their home countries.  Additionally USCIS adjudicates applications for resident aliens status and United States citizenship via the naturalization process.

The greater the number of applications that are filed, the more rapidly the process needs to dispose of these applications to keep up with the workload.  The fastest way to accomplish this is to have the adjudications officers approve nearly every application.  An application can be approved in just minutes but it may take days or even weeks to deny an application.  Denials may require a field investigation and a formal report of findings that need to be reviewed by attorneys for legal sufficiency, in anticipation of the alien filing an appeal.

This creates a vicious cycle of more applications to be dealt with in a shorter period of time.  This further erodes any semblance of integrity to this vital process that the 911 Commission identified as having a clear nexus with national security.  It is important to focus on the term “adjudicate” and the fact that it is supposed to describe a deliberative process.  An Adjudications Officer is supposed to weigh all of the material facts before rendering a decision.

Consider this excerpt from the prepared testimony of the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, that provides insight into just how screwed up this process is where applications for political asylum are concerned:

Accounts indicate that aliens are being coached in the asylum process and are being taught to use certain terms to ensure that they are found to have a credible fear. According to critics many of these claims are often an orchestrated sham.  

In addition to this alarming trend, the House Judiciary Committee recently obtained an internal CBP memo that states many people claiming a ‘credible fear’ of persecution at our ports of entry have a direct or indirect association with drug trafficking and other illegal activity, such as human smuggling. Since there are intelligence gaps and loopholes in the system, the asylum process is often being abused by individuals who would otherwise be subjects of interest or subjects of criminal investigations. Once these unscrupulous individuals falsely claim a ‘credible fear’ of persecution, there is virtually no investigation by U.S. authorities. Because the Obama Administration refuses to detain most of them, criminals and those who pose national security threats are then able to live and work in the U.S. for many years before their cases are ever heard by immigration judges.

Next I would like to consider a few other articles I have written about the nexus between immigration and national security- especially where the process by which aliens are admitted as refugees or granted political asylum:

On July 30, 2012 CAPS posted my commentary,  Fraud: The Immigration Vulnerability That Undermines the Immigration System and National Security.”

On January 23, 2015 FrontPage Magazine published my article: “Sleeper Cells: The Immigration Component of the Threat: Washington’s deadly political games.” 

On May 26, 2015 FrontPage Magazine published my article, “‘Revitalizing’ Detroit with 50,000 Syrian Refugees? » An idea that will drive the failed city deeper into poverty — and harm national security.”

On June 25, 2015 FrontPage Magazine published my article, “Rep. Nunes: America Faces Highest Terror Threat Level Ever » Ignoring the grim lessons of 911.”

My recent article for Progressives For Immigration Reform, entitled “The Immigration Factor –Naturalized U.S. Citizen Added to FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List” was predicated on the January 29, 2015 FBI press release entitled, “Naturalized U.S. Citizen Born in Somalia Added to FBI List.

In all of these articles and others I have written on the nexus between immigration and national security.  That nexus was a major focus of the 911 Commission.

It has been said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  Whenever the issue of immigration is raised, the advocates for open borders whom I have come to refer to as the “immigration anarchists” are quick to invoke the issue of compassion.  They accuse anyone who would enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders against illegal entry as lacking compassion and being “anti-immigrant.”

These are false and, indeed, infuriating accusations.  It is impossible to be “anti-immigrant” if you support the enforcement of our immigration laws.  Our immigration laws enable more than one million lawful immigrants to legally enter the United States each year.  Our immigration laws enable more than one half million aliens to acquire United States citizenship via the naturalization process each year.

Those numbers are greater than the number of immigrants admitted by all of the other countries on this planet.  Those who support the effective enforcement and administration of our immigration laws are actually taking a ‘pro-immigrant” stance, advocating for the admission of lawful immigrants.

It is time, once and for all, for America’s compassion be turned _inward_ to safeguard the lives and the futures of our own citizens, especially American children.  Today it is estimated that one-fourth of all American kids live below the poverty line.  Our open borders have allowed massive quantities of illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine and meth to flood into the United States.  Most violent crime is directly or indirectly related to illegal drugs.  The proceeds of the drug trade enrich the drug cartels and terror organizations.

Ever since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 our leaders, including members of the current administration have said that to be successful the terrorists only have to get it “right” once.  To defend America and Americans against the threats posed by terrorists, we must get it “right” 100% of the time.

Every foreign national who is admitted into the United States provides terrorist organizations with an opportunity to succeed.  We certainly cannot stop trade or the travel of foreign nationals to the United States, nor should we want to.  However, just as homeowners are admonished by police departments to lock their doors at night and exercise caution in admitting strangers into their homes, especially when burglars or home invaders are striking homes in a community, the United States must exercise similar caution.

If our officials err, they must err on the side of caution to preserve and protect our nation and the lives of our citizens, especially in this increasingly perilous era.  America’s enemies must not be permitted to turn our compassion into a weapon of opportunity with which they can attack us.