While the White Houseargues with the Heritage Foundation over how many new immigrants willbe minted by the administration’s immigration plan, andCongress debates how many miles of fencing they should fund along theMexican border, no on is paying attention to the real immigrationscandal. If left unattended, this one could cost the lives ofmillions of Americans, not just their livelihoods.
Even as we speak, tens of thousands of illegals fromterrorist-sponsoring states are roaming the streets of America,according to a stunning new report from the Department of HomelandSecurity’s Office of Inspector General.
Although the report was completed by mid-April, DHS did not torelease the 52-page indictment of our nation’s immigrationsystem until May 19, three days after DHS Secretary Michael Chertoffbriefed the press on the administration’s immigration reformplan.
Just to make sure the report received little attention, it wasreleased on a Friday, when Congress and most newshounds had left forthe weekend, and did not merit even a press release.
It should be required reading for anyone seriously concerned inimmigration reform – which may be why you’ll have a hardtime finding it on the DHS website. You candownloadit here.¬Ý¬Ý
The report reveals that45,008 aliens from countries on the U.S. list of state-sponsors ofterror (SST) or from countries that protected terrorist organizationsand their members (SIC) were released into the general public between2001 and 2005, even though immigration officers couldn’tconfirm their identity.
Even worse, “it is not known exactly how many of these SIC andSST aliens were ultimately issued final orders of removal andactually removed, since such data is not tracked” by theDetention and Removal Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE), the report said.
The report estimated that 85% of those released aliens “willabscond,” even if deportation orders are issued.
Do the math. That means that more than 38,000 individuals from Iran,Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, whose identitiescould not be verified and who could be working for terrorist groups,are today roaming the streets of America.
And if they’re smart – and undoubtedly, they are –they have already acquired new identities and have melted intoAmerican society.
“The release of these OTMs [Other Than Mexicans] posesparticular risks,” the Inspector General report said. Thereport cited a recent U.S. intelligence assessment indicating that “terroristorganizations& believe illegal entry into the U.S. is moreadvantageous than legal entry for operations reasons.”
But the scope of the problem goes way beyond these 45,008 illegalsfrom terrorist-sponsoring and harboring nations.
At an April 6, 2006 hearing of the House International Relationssubcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, Rep.John Culberson (R, Tx) said he recently confirmed with FBI DirectorRobert Mueller that “a number of individuals from countrieswith al Qaeda connections are changing their identities. They’rechanging their Islamic surnames for Hispanic surnames, adopting falseHispanic identities& and hiding among the flood of illegalscoming over our border and disappearing into the country.”
In other words, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’thave a clue how many potential terrorists have gotten through ourporous borders and have simply changed their names.
This should be our absolute, number one top priority when it comes toimmigration reform. If we can’t tell who’s coming acrossour borders, we will not be able to prevent the next terroristattack.
The Inspector General report notes that from 2001 through the firsthalf of 2005, 605,210 Other Than Mexicans were arrested for violatingU.S. immigration laws.
But a lack of beds at detention facilities and other factorscompelled the government to release 51% of them into the generalpopulation, while awaiting an immigration hearing on their finalstatus. And in many cases, the government was never able to verifythe identity of the people it released.
“It is not clear the extent to which decisions to release OTMs¬Ýare being made on a risk-based versus resource-basedmanner,” the Inspector General report stated. “Even ifrisk is considered, the high release rate could undermine the public’sconfidence in the department’s ability to secure our northernand southern borders.”
Sometimes you just love the understatements that flow from a skilledbureaucrat’s pen.
Also testifying at that April 6, 2006 hearing was Michael J.Maxwell,, who had recently been squeezed out as the top securityofficial at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Maxwell’s story, which I relate in more detailhere,is absolutely hair-raising. He told the committee of missing criminalfiles, and of being ordered by his superiors to lie to Congress abouthis agency’s failings. He detailed an open illegal immigrationcorridor from the Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico and into the UnitedStates that was ripe for exploitation for foreign intelligenceagencies.
But most troubling were his assertions that corrupt immigrationofficers were providing documents to alien smuggling rings, thatcould wind up in the hands of terrorists.
“It is not only USCIS employees who have been corrupted,”Maxwell said. ¬Ý“Written allegations set forth byUSCIS employees, interviews conducted as recently as yesterday withUSCIS line employees and high-level managers, internal USCIScommunications, and external investigative documents prepared byindependent third agencies, compiled and delivered to this Congressover the last year, make it abundantly clear that the integrity ofthe United States immigration system has also been corrupted and thesystem is incapable of ensuring the security of our homeland.”
Our immigration system is so broken it cannot be fixed.
Forget the numbers game. Forget the November elections, and thelobbyists. Forget the finger-pointing. It’s time for an extrememake-over.
Congress knows what needs to be done. Here are just a few toppriority items:
Ä¢ Weneed to hire thousands of new federal officers in each of the threebranches of the immigration service. (CIS, which handles immigrationapplications; ICE, which does enforcement; and Customs and BorderPatrol, which stands at our borders).
Ä¢ Weneed to institute reliable biometrics in a U.S. government identitydocument issued to all resident and non-resident aliens. (PresidentBush came out in support of this earlier this week).
Ä¢ Weneed to break down the institutional barriers that preventimmigration officers from accessing intelligence information to dobackground checks on aliens.
Ä¢ Weneed to actively prosecute corrupt officials, rather than cover-uptheir activities because they are politically embarrassing.
Ä¢ And most importantly, we need to stop therush to rubber-stamp new immigrants so the new system can be put inplace before more potential terrorists slip through.
The slow-down in the immigration processing is going to make peopleangry. But the alternative is explosively clear.
Just as we can’t make our ports 100percent¬Ýterrorist-proof (or child-proof, for thatmatter), we will never manage to construct an immigration systemwithout flaws.
But we can raise the costs for terrorists to the point where theywill seek some other way of penetrating our system.
That is what the Bush administration has done successfully withmaritime security over the past four years – notably, throughthe Container Security Initiative and the installation of radiationdetection devices.
It’s time to treat immigration as the goal line of our nationalsecurity system, because the terrorists are on the five yard line andthe ball is in play.
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