HOMELAND SECURITY UNCOVERS MASSIVE IMMIGRATION FAILURES
The devastating consequences for national security.
By Michael Cutler
President Trump has been rightfully demanding that aliens who are citizens of countries that have an involvement with terrorism must undergo “extreme vetting.”
This is certainly an important and commonsense requirement. However, the computer systems used by both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) inside the United States are unable to provide CBP inspectors at ports of entry the data they need to prevent transnational criminals and international terrorists from entering the country. Nor can these systems provide the vital information and records to USCIS adjudications officers that would allow them to prevent aliens present in the United States from improperly acquiring immigration benefits such as political asylum, lawful immigrant status and even United States citizenship.
Simply stated, today — more than 16 years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 — the effective vetting of any alien seeking entry into the United States or for any alien seeking immigration benefits has been elusive goals.
The September 28, 2017 Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General’s (DHS OIG) report, “CBP’s IT Systems and Infrastructure Did Not Fully Support Border Security Operations,” noted:
CBP’s IT systems and infrastructure did not fully support its border security objective of preventing the entry of inadmissible aliens to the country. The slow performance of a critical pre-screening system greatly reduced Office of Field Operations officers’ ability to identify any passengers who may represent concerns, including national security threats. Further, incoming passenger screening at U.S. international airports was hampered by frequent system outages that created passenger delays and public safety risks. The outages required that CBP officers rely on backup systems that weakened the screening process, leading to officers potentially being unable to identify travelers that may be attempting to enter the United States with harmful intent.
On September 25, 2017, a report was published by DHS OIG on the distressing issue of individuals with multiple identities in US fingerprint enrollment records receiving immigration benefits. This disastrous situation has profound national security and public safety implications. Yet the report stated in part:
As of April 24, 2017, 9,389 aliens USCIS identified as having multiple identities had received an immigration benefit. When taking into account the most current immigration benefit these aliens received, we determined that naturalization, permanent residence, work authorization, and temporary protected status represent the greatest number of benefits, accounting for 8,447 or 90 percent of the 9,389 cases. Benefits approved by USCIS for the other 10 percent of cases, but not discussed in this report, include applications for asylum and travel documents. According to USCIS, receiving a deportation order or having used another identity does not necessarily render an individual ineligible for immigration benefits.
That last sentence should give us all serious cause for pause.
Apparently the “get to yes” philosophy of the Obama administration still permeates management at USCIS where adjudications officers were ordered to do whatever they had to do in order to approve virtually all applications for various immigration benefits.
We will, a bit later on, take a look back at how the Obama administration dismantled a program that sought to uncover immigration fraud and imbue the immigration benefits program with integrity.
But let’s first consider some additional facts.
The official report 9/11 and Terrorist Travel was issued well over a decade ago and focused specifically on the ability of the terrorists to travel around the world, enter the United States and ultimately embed themselves in the U.S. as they went about their deadly preparations to carry out an attack.
The report noted:
Once terrorists had entered the United States, their next challenge was to find a way to remain here. Their primary method was immigration fraud. For example, Yousef and Ajaj concocted bogus political asylum stories when they arrived in the United States. Mahmoud Abouhalima, involved in both the World Trade Center and landmarks plots, received temporary residence under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW) program, after falsely claiming that he picked beans in Florida.” Mohammed Salameh, who rented the truck used in the bombing, overstayed his tourist visa. He then applied for permanent residency under the agricultural workers program, but was rejected. Eyad Mahmoud Ismail, who drove the van containing the bomb, took English-language classes at Wichita State University in Kansas on a student visa; after he dropped out, he remained in the United States out of status.
Under the title “Immigration Benefits” the following paragraph on page 98 of the same report states that
[t]errorists in the 1990s, as well as the September 11 hijackers, needed to find a way to stay in or embed themselves in the United States if their operational plans were to come to fruition. As already discussed, this could be accomplished legally by marrying an American citizen, achieving temporary worker status, or applying for asylum after entering. In many cases, the act of filing for an immigration benefit sufficed to permit the alien to remain in the country until the petition was adjudicated. Terrorists were free to conduct surveillance, coordinate operations, obtain and receive funding, go to school and learn English, make contacts in the United States, acquire necessary materials, and execute an attack.
These multiple serious failures of the immigration system today are hardly new.
Roughly one year ago a disturbing DHS/OIG Report prompted me to write an article about Weaponized Immigration. I focused on the fact that 858 aliens who had been ordered deported were improperly granted United States citizenship through the process of naturalization due to the fact hat their fingerprints were not on file because they were not properly uploaded when INS, the predecessor agency to DHS, digitized these fingerprints.
As bad as that was, that report went on to state:
Later, ICE identified missing fingerprint records for about 315,000 aliens who had final deportation orders or who were criminals or fugitives, but it has not yet reviewed about 148,000 aliens’ files to try to retrieve and digitize the old fingerprint cards.
The report noted that in 2010 a program known as “Operation Janus” was created to identify aliens who may have committed immigration fraud, yet the report documented that in the final months of the Obama administration, inexplicably, the Operation Janus working group was disbanded, stymieing efforts to identify aliens who had committed naturalization fraud and thereby seriously undermining national security.
While it was in operation, the working group of Operation Janus identified wrongly naturalized aliens who had been able to parlay their U.S. citizenship into sensitive jobs at airports and seaports and at least one of these individuals became a law enforcement officer. Consequently, appropriate actions were taken to denaturalize some of these individuals and seek criminal prosecutions, although only a small percentage of these aliens were dealt with effectively.
What was even more disconcerting was that some of these aliens were citizens of “Special Interest Countries,” that is to say, countries that are associated with possible terrorist links.
Nevertheless, consider how many politicians from both political parties are determined to provide lawful status to unknown tens of millions of illegal aliens whose true identities are unknown and unknowable. These politicians all know that the immigration bureaucracy is unable to effectively deal with its current workload. Any massive legalization program would cause this already failing system to implode.
We must also consider how many cities and states have declared themselves to be “sanctuaries” for illegal aliens who entered the United States surreptitiously or who may have lost their lawful status because of the serious crimes that they committed. These jurisdictions have become magnets for foreign criminals and terrorists and undermine national security and public safety.
The immigration system lacks meaningful integrity while the Damoclean Sword of terrorism hangs above our heads each and every day. Every year thousands of innocent victims lose their lives to criminal aliens, yet the immigration anarchists and their allies in the media castigate anyone who would dare suggest that the United States must act to secure its borders and enforce its immigration laws, branding them xenophobes, racists and haters.
Suicide is not an act of compassion. All of the failing and dysfunctional elements of the immigration system must be repaired as swiftly as possible — not as a prerequisite for any additional action, but simply as ends unto themselves. The potential for massive losses of life should provide the clear imperative for getting the job done- for once and for all.
Michael Cutler is a retired Senior Special Agent of the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) whose career spanned some 30 years. He served as an Immigration Inspector, Immigration Adjudications Officer and spent 26 years as an agent who rotated through all of the squads within the Investigations Branch. He has testified before well over a dozen congressional hearings, provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission as well as state legislative hearings around the United States and at trials where immigration is at issue.