Editor’s Note: From our great friend and regular SUA contributor, Michael Cutler, retired Senior Special Agent of the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) whose career spanned some 30 years. He has testified before well over a dozen congressional hearings.
He hosts “The Michael Cutler Hour” on USA Talk Radio Fridays at 7 p.m. (EST) and is frequently interviewed by broadcast media on various aspects of immigration issues, especially the nexus to national security.
DHS Loses Thousands of ‘Keys to the Kingdom’
And issues some “keys” to the wrong people.
By Michael Cutler
President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall to separate the United States from Mexico resonated with many Americans and galvanized their support, which ultimately enabled him to win the election. These voters want to prevent narcotics and illegal aliens and the criminals and terrorists among them from flowing freely into the United States.
Indeed, that porous border must be made secure. However, simply securing that problematic border would not end the immigration crisis. Indeed, the lack of security along the southwest border had nothing to do with the ability of the 9/11 hijacker-terrorists to enter the United States nor did that border play a role in the great majority of terrorists who have entered the United States prior to the attacks of 9/11 or after those deadly attacks.
While illegal immigration represents a huge multi-faceted challenge and, indeed threat, to America and Americans, the multiple failures of the legal immigration system is no less problematic.
Many politicians have said that after the Trump administration secures the southwest border and removes the estimated two to three million criminal aliens that we should then consider how to address the remaining millions of illegal aliens. In reality, in addition to removing the criminal aliens the Trump administration must take immediate and decisive steps to address the abject lack of integrity in the legal immigration system that is utterly unable to deal with its current workload let alone deal with any further increases of applications.
Green Cards, also known as Alien Registration Receipt Cards, are issued to provide reliable documentation that attests to aliens granted lawful immigrant status. These cards serve many purposes including providing prima facia evidence of the bearer’s identity as well as his or her immigration status that enables that individual to be lawfully employed in the United States.
Green Cards also enable aliens to enter the United States through ports of entry not unlike a passport. Green Cards can also serve as required ID to enable the bearer to board airliners and have access to corporate and government office buildings and facilities.
In a very real sense, given the multitude of lawful uses for these documents, Green Cards represent the “Keys to the Kingdom” and consequently have serious national security implications.
On November 21, 2016 OIG (the Office of the Inspector General) of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) issued a press release on the continuing failures of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to address numerous deficiencies in the process by which Green Cards are issued.
The relatively bland title of the press release, “DHS OIG Finds USCIS Continues to Struggle to Ensure Proper Green Card Issuance” does not convey the true seriousness of the egregious examples of incompetence and ineptitude reported upon in that press release or the actual report of the investigation conducted by the OIG, “Better Safeguards Are Needed in USCIS Green Card Issuance: (OIG 17-11).”
To begin with, here is the full text of the press release:
A new Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) report concludes that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to struggle to ensure proper Green Card issuance. The audit was conducted as a follow-up to a March 2016 report where where the DHS OIG disclosed that USCIS had sent potentially hundreds of Green Cards to the wrong addresses.
In fact, the problem was far worse than originally thought. Over the last 3 years, USCIS produced at least 19,000 cards that included incorrect information or were issued in duplicate. Additional mistakes included over 2,400 immigrants approved for 2-year conditional residence status being inadvertently issued cards with 10-year expiration dates. The agency also received over 200,000 reports of cards potentially misdelivered, or not being delivered to approved applicants.
The majority of the card issuance errors were due to the flawed design and functionality problems in the agency’s Electronic Immigration System (ELIS). The delays and cost overruns of the ELIS system have been documented in previous OIG reports. Although USCIS conducted a number of efforts to recover the inappropriately issued and missing cards, its efforts to address the errors have been inadequate.
“It appears that thousands of Green Cards have simply gone missing. In the wrong hands, Green Cards may enable terrorists, criminals, and undocumented aliens to remain in the United States,” said Inspector General Roth. “It is vital that USCIS ensure better tools and procedures are in place to mitigate such risks.”
The preceding paragraph contained in the OIG press release noted that “In the wrong hands, Green Cards may enable terrorists, criminals, and undocumented aliens to remain in the United States.” Yet efforts to flag those cards at ports of entry through the computer system employed by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) Inspectors, have not been consistently implemented. Consequently, aliens improperly issued those cards may still be able to use them to enter the United States.
The press release referenced a previous report issued in March 2016. That report, “USCIS Automation of Immigration Benefits Processing Remains Ineffective” was also given a nondescript title that downplayed the national security implications of these failures.
These problems are not new but are decades old and have been getting increasingly worse as USCIS is forced to adjudicate a growing avalanche of applications for various immigration benefits including applications filed by aliens for political asylum, lawful immigrant status and even United States citizenship.
In fact, I testified at a hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security on March 19, 2002 when it was discovered that two of the 9/11 terrorists, Mohammed Atta (the ringleader) and Marwan al-Shehhi had been granted authorization to attend flight school in the United States six months after the terror attacks. The topic of that hearing was, “INS’S March 2002 Notification Of Approval Of Change Of Status For Pilot Training For Terrorist Hijackers Mohammed Atta And Marwan Al-Shehhi.”
The hearing created a media circus and was covered by C-SPAN. The C-SPAN video is worth watching. Every member of Congress that participated in that hearing was indignant about this unbelievable failure of the immigration system.
However, virtually none of the promises made during that hearing, nearly 15 years ago, has been kept to this very day, allowing history to repeat itself over and over again.
Aliens who seek to naturalize are supposed to be subjected to a thorough investigation to determine if they possess, “Good Moral Character.” however, those investigations are rarely, if ever conducted. Indeed, even face-to-face interviews of these applicants have often been dispensed with.
I addressed the significance of the naturalization process in terms of national security in my article, “The Immigration Factor – Naturalized U.S. Citizen Added to FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List.”
Additionally, these disturbing reports focus purely on the multitude of failures of the mechanics of the system for issuing Green Cards to aliens but do not address the issue of aliens who commit fraud.
On May 30, 2013, UPI posted a report about an alleged former member of Hezbollah successfully immigrating the United States by allegedly concealing his terrorist background as noted in this headline, “Immigrant allegedly failed to reveal Hezbollah membership.” That immigrant was ultimately naturalized and held a security clearance.
On December 6, 2014 Fox News published a report, “Saudi-born US naval engineer allegedly gave undercover agent info on how to sink carrier” that focused on how Mostafa Ahmed Awwad was educated in the United States and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, agreed to provide an FBI undercover agent with the plans of the Gerald R. Ford, a 13 billion dollar aircraft carrier that was still under construction. Allegedly Awwad even told the undercover agent where the ship would be most vulnerable to being sunk by a missile strike.
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, an additional hearing was conducted on the issue: “Asylum Abuse: Is it Overwhelming our Borders?” This hearing focused on the impact on our borders when, in reality the asylum abuse impacts each and every state.
Of course limiting the hearing to the issue of only “our borders” coincides neatly with the myth that all that our nation needs to do in preparation for a massive amnesty program, likely involving tens of millions of illegal aliens, is to “secure our southern border.”
I wrote about this issue in my February 5, 2015 article, “The ‘Secure Our Border First Act’ Deception » Why it’s no solution to the immigration crisis.”
Donald Trump has promised to “Drain the Swamp” as he referred to the filth and corruption of our current political system. All Americans should be cheering him on. However, he must also turn his attention to another “swamp” the Department of Homeland Security or, as I have come to refer to it, the “Department of Homeland Surrender,” especially where all of the immigration components of that horrifically overwhelmed and inept agency are concerned.
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