Taking Failures of the Immigration System to Task

When will America get serious about immigration law enforcement?

For many years, politicians, attempting to ram “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” down the throats of Americans, insisted we should provide unknown millions of illegal aliens, who have circumvented the vetting process conducted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors at ports of entry, with lawful status once we secured the U.S./Mexican border.  They claimed that this was the only way to deal with millions of illegal aliens, since they could not deport them all.

They blithely ignored the fact that most terrorists did not enter the United States by running our borders and that the only way to adjudicate millions of applications filed by illegal aliens would be to process their applications without any face-to-face interviews and without any field investigations. In essence, they put millions of illegal aliens on an “honor system,” including transnational criminals and international terrorists.  They ignored the obvious question, “What could possibly go wrong?”

Disclosures of the lack of integrity to the vetting process of Syrian refugees and the terror attacks conducted in Paris and within the United States over the past few years, provide incontrovertible evidence that the entire immigration system is failing to protect America and Americans.

However, although pundits and journalists have declared the San Bernardino, California terror attack carried out by Tashfeen Malik, who entered the United States on a K-1 fiancée visa filed by her husband, and fellow terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, as a “game changer,” I am compelled to ask what “game” they think we are playing.

Journalists are supposed to be “fact finders.”  Most Americans pay attention to journalists because they believe that journalists will do the “legwork,” to dig out the facts to keep them well-informed. 

These journalists must not have read The 911 Commission Report that was published well over a decade ago and warned about many flaws in the immigration system, including visa fraud and a lack of resources to enforce our immigration laws from within the interior of the United States, creating easily exploited vulnerabilities.

The report that the 911 Commission staff produced, “911 and  Terrorist Travel - _Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,_” also focused on these failures and went into even greater detail.

It has been said that a chain is as strong as its weakest link.  The immigration chain consists of extremely weak and non-existent links.

On a personal note, it is infuriating and frustrating to an extent you cannot imagine to have addressed glaring failures of the immigration system at congressional hearings supposedly conducted to address vulnerabilities in the immigration system and then, years later, witness a succession of deadly terror attacks carried out inside the United States because terrorists were able to exploit those very same vulnerabilities that were never addressed.

I am only one of a long list of experts who have provided testimony at a succession of congressional hearings on the indisputable nexus between immigration and national security.

The fact that terrorists can and, indeed, have entered the United States by committing visa fraud has been well known for decades.  In point of fact, more than 18 years ago, on May 20, 1997, more than four years before the attacks of 911, the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims conducted a hearing that was predicated on the two attacks of 1993 at the CIA in January of that year and the first World Trade bombing one month later, on the topic, “Visa Fraud And Immigration Benefits Application Fraud.”  I provided testimony at that hearing.

More than 11 years ago, on May 18, 2004, I testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on the topic, “Pushing The Border Out On Alien Smuggling: New Tools And Intelligence Initiatives.”

My prepared testimony not only addressed the problems created by smugglers who assist aliens to enter the United States without inspection, but also the threat posed by organizations that facilitate the entry and embedding of alien criminals and terrorists into the United States through the use of fraudulent documents and schemes.

Here is a relevant excerpt from my testimony:

I would also suggest that the efforts to facilitate cultivating informants in alien-smuggling cases also be used in conjunction with informants who similarly assist in providing information that leads to the elimination or disruption of large-scale fraud rings. Traditionally, these rings either furnish many fraudulent documents to circumvent components of the Immigration and Nationality Act or devise schemes which, on a large scale, provides aliens with a means of obtaining immigration benefits—such as residency and citizenship—to which they are not entitled through such schemes as marriage fraud and labor certification fraud. I make these recommendations in view of the fact that, according to recent GAO reports, fraud is highly prevalent in the immigration benefits program.

Finally, I want to reiterate the point that I welcome efforts that enhance the enforcement of the immigration statutes that would help in securing our Nation’s borders and, consequently, our Nation’s security. I believe that the additional discretionary authority should be given to both components of the enforcement program, ICE and CBP, to facilitate the vital missions of these two agencies.

Nearly 10 years ago, on May 11, 2006, I testified at a hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on International Relations on the topic, “Visa Overstays: Can We Bar The Terrorist Door?

In my prepared testimony I warned about the national security vulnerabilities created by the Visa Waiver Program and the fact that 911 terrorists had all entered the United States through ports of entry. 

Clearly the immigration system is overwhelmed.  It is inevitable that alien terrorists and alien criminals and fugitives will succeed in entering the United States.  The commonsense solution to this disturbing threat is to enhance our efforts and resources to enforce our immigration laws from within the interior of the United States, to identify and remove such aliens before they kill Americans or otherwise assist others in committing deadly attacks.

The immigration interior enforcement mission has, for decades, been intentionally ignored by Republican and Democratic administrations, alike.

Consequently, there are unknown numbers of illegal aliens present in our country.  They are citizens of virtually every country on our planet and live in nearly every town and city across our country.  Added to those who evaded the inspections process conducted at ports of entry are those aliens who have committed visa fraud or entered the U.S. under the auspices of the fatally flawed Visa Waiver Program and subsequently violated the terms of their admission.

Other aliens engage in immigration benefit fraud by engaging in marriage fraud or by falsely filing claims of “credible fear” to qualify for political asylum, as was apparently the case of the Tsarnaev family and a series of other terrorists. 

Terrorists such as Faisal Shahzad (the “Times Square Bomber”) concealed material facts and were naturalized.

Sanctuary cities are encouraged by the administration to violate our immigration laws and harbor and shield un-vetted illegal aliens, creating more vulnerabilities.

Incomprehensibly, the Washington Times reported on December 2, 2015, “ICE gives away $113 million, says not enough illegal immigrants to deport.”

The solution is to greatly increase the number of agents at ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to arrest illegal aliens and conduct investigations into aliens who engage in immigration fraud irrespective of whether they have committed other crimes.  Identifying, arresting and deporting, and possibly prosecuting aliens, who engage in immigration fraud and prosecuting those Americans who participate in such criminal conspiracies would effectively combat this vulnerability.

Today, ICE employs approximately 7,000 special agents.  Many of them are assigned to enforce immigration laws that don’t relate to immigration law violations.  Today ICE is more concerned with those who produce counterfeit Gucci loafers than counterfeit passports.

This must stop immediately.  Until more ICE agents are hired and trained, personnel from other federal agencies need to be assigned to work with ICE immediately.

Focusing on these enforcement activities, especially in the ethnic immigrant communities of citizens from countries that sponsor terrorism, would achieve two vital goals: shrink the huge haystack in which “deadly needles” are hiding and create opportunities to cultivate informants within those tight-knit communities.  This is especially significant as concerns about the ability of the terrorists to encrypt their communications increase.

This is not a new or novel concept; this is how the former INS handled the issue of illegal immigration when I first became an INS special agent in 1975.

Speaking from a position of personal experience, for nearly half of my career with the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) I was assigned to narcotics law enforcement activities, including a ten-year assignment to the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. I am convinced that the task force approach to combating crime and terrorism can be extremely effective.

Given the escalating threat of international terrorism the time has come to create an Immigration Task Force to focus our efforts on enforcing our immigration laws that serve as our first line of defense and last line of defense against international terrorists, including so-called “Sleeper Agents” operating in our country.

The enforcement of our immigration laws is vested within the Department of Homeland Security.  This vital mission must finally be prioritized as a fundamental element of homeland security.