In light of today’s earlier post, via How the Terrorists Get In | Center for Immigration Studies.
By Steven A. Camarota
In the wake of September 11, some observers have emphasized the mismanagement of temporary visas, such as those issued to students and tourists, because all of the 19 hijackers were originally allowed into the country on temporary visas. Others have argued that there is a problem with illegal immigration, because at least three of the hijackers – four if Zacarias Moussaoui, who the U.S. government claims was the intended twentieth hijacker, is included – had overstayed their visas and were illegal aliens at the time of the attacks. But in fact the danger cannot be isolated to one type of immigration. Foreign-born Islamic terrorists have used almost every conceivable means of entering the country over the last decade. They have come as students, tourists, and business visitors. They have also been lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and naturalized U.S. citizens. They have sneaked across the border illegally, arrived as stowaways on ships, used false passports, or been granted amnesty. Terrorists have even exploited America’s humanitarian tradition of welcoming those seeking asylum. At the time they committed their crimes, 16 of the 48 terrorists considered in this analysis were on temporary visas (primarily tourist visas); another 17 were lawful permanent residents or naturalized U.S. citizens; 12 were illegal aliens; and 3 of the 48 had applications for asylum pending.
Even some government officials have mistakenly singled out one type of immigration as the source of the problem. During testimony before the immigration subcommittee in the Senate shortly after the September attacks, INS commissioner James Ziglar stated, “Immigrants are not terrorists…. The people that we are talking about, the hijackers, they weren’t immigrants. They were nonimmigrants.” While it is certainly true that the September 11 hijackers entered the country using nonimmigrant visas (also called temporary visas), the commissioner is incorrect if his comments were meant to indicate that permanent residents are not a source of terrorism. In fact, prior to September 11, most foreign terrorists were LPRs or nationalized U.S. citizens. Excluding the hijackers, more than half (17 out of 28) of the foreign-born Islamic terrorists in the last decade were persons living legally in the United States as permanent residents or as naturalized citizens.
Indeed, some of the worst foreign terrorists have been naturalized citizens. For example, El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1990, was one of the first militant Islamic terrorists to strike in the United States. A naturalized U.S. citizen, he was later convicted as a member of the larger conspiracy to bomb landmarks around New York City. Nidal Ayyad, a chemical engineer who provided the explosive expertise for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, was also a naturalized U.S. citizen. So too were Egyptian-born Ali Mohammed, who is widely regarded as having written al Qaeda’s terrorist handbook, and Khalid Abu al Dahab, who has been described as “a one-man communications hub” for shuttling money and fake passports to terrorists around the world from his California apartment.
Lawful permanent residents (also known as green-card holders) have also played an integral role in terrorism. In all, 11 LPRs have been convicted or pled guilty to terrorist activities. These include Mahmud Abouhalima, one of the leaders of the first World Trade Center bombing, who became a legal resident after falsely claiming to be an agricultural worker, allowing him to qualify for a green card as part of the 1986 amnesty. Another LPR was Mohammed Saleh, who provided the money and the fuel oil needed to create the bombs for the massive terrorist plot targeting landmarks around New York City in the summer of 1993. The ringleader of this plot, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, was also a legal permanent resident.
The nation’s humanitarian tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution has also been exploited by a number of terrorists. Three of them had asylum claims pending when they committed their crimes. Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman used an asylum application to prevent his deportation to Egypt after all other means of remaining in the country had failed. Rahman inspired both the first World Trade Center attack and the plot to bomb New York City landmarks. Moreover, he is widely considered to be one of the spiritual leaders whose ideas helped to found al Qaeda. Mir Aimal Kansi, who murdered two CIA employees in 1993, and Ramzi Yousef, who was sentenced to death for masterminding the first attack on the World Trade Center, both had applications for political asylum pending.
While most foreign-born terrorists were in the country legally, either as temporary visitors, lawful permanent residents, or naturalized citizens, illegal aliens have also taken part in almost every major terrorist attack on American soil, including the first attack on the World Trade Center, the Millennium plot, the plot to bomb the Brooklyn subway system, and the attacks of September 11. Of the 48 Islamic terrorists in the last decade, 12 were in the country illegally when they committed their crimes. (It may also be more accurate to include asylum applicants in the category of illegal aliens, because all of the three terrorists discussed above had no legal basis for being in the United States and were awaiting the outcome of the asylum process.) Altogether, 19 foreign terrorists over the last decade were either illegal aliens at the time they engaged in terrorism or had lived in the United States illegally for an extended period before they committed their crimes.
How did all these terrorists get into the country? The plain fact is that they exploited weaknesses in nearly every part of the U.S. immigration system, from its visa-processing operations overseas, to control of the border and ports of entry, to green-card issuance. An examination of these problems reveals inadequate vetting of visa applicants, lack of cooperation among U.S. agencies and between the United States and foreign governments, failure to adequately police the borders, and a complete lack of interior enforcement.
In a very real sense, Foreign Service officers are America’s other border patrol. It is they who determine, in most cases, who is allowed into the country. Of the 48 terrorists considered here, 41 had at some point been approved for a visa by an American consulate overseas. Though we cannot expect that in every case the visa-processing system will quickly identify the terrorist applicant and prevent him from getting a visa, the fact that so many terrorists made it through certainly suggests that there are significant problems in the system.
That was excerpted from an article written in
Pressure from the Obama administration to rubber-stamp citizenship applicants and the failure of the Department of Homeland Security to properly train personnel and give them the tools to vet those applications have jeopardized U.S. national security, federal law enforcement officials and a Homeland Security union leader told TheBlaze.
More from CIS: Keeping Terror Out: Immigration Policy and Asymmetric Warfare
Our enemies have repeatedly exercised this option of inserting terrorists by exploiting weaknesses in our immigration system. A Center for Immigration Studies analysis of the immigration histories of the 48 foreign-born Al-Qaeda operatives who committed crimes in the United States from 1993 to 2001 (including the 9/11 hijackers) found that nearly every element of the immigration system has been penetrated by the enemy.2 Of the 48, one-third were here on various temporary visas, another third were legal residents or naturalized citizens, one-fourth were illegal aliens, and the remainder had pending asylum applications. Nearly half of the total had, at some point or another, violated existing immigration laws.
Supporters of loose borders deny that inadequate immigration control is a problem, usually pointing to flawed intelligence as the most important shortcoming that needs to be addressed. Mary Ryan, for example, former head of the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (which issues visas), testified in January 2004 before the 9/11 Commission that
“Even under the best immigration controls, most of the September 11 terrorists would still be admitted to the United States today . . . because they had no criminal records, or known terrorist connections, and had not been identified by intelligence methods for special scrutiny.”
But this turns out to be untrue, both for the hijackers and for earlier Al-Qaeda operatives in the United States. A normal level of visa scrutiny, for instance, would have excluded almost all the hijackers. Investigative reporter Joel Mowbray acquired copies of 15 of the 19 hijackers’ visa applications (the other four were destroyed – yes, destroyed – by the State Department), and every one of the half-dozen current and former consular officers he consulted said every application should have been rejected on its face.3 Every application was incomplete or contained patently inadequate or absurd answers.
Even if the applications had been properly prepared, many of the hijackers, including Mohammed Atta and several others, were young, single, and had little income – precisely the kind of person likely to overstay his visa and become an illegal alien, and thus the kind of applicant who should be rejected. And, conveniently, those least likely to overstay their visas – older people with close family, property, and other commitments in their home countries – are also the very people least likely to commit suicide attacks.
9/11 was not the only terrorist plot to benefit from lax enforcement of ordinary immigration controls – every major Al-Qaeda attack or conspiracy in the United States has involved at least one terrorist who violated immigration law. Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, for example, who was part of the plot to bomb the Brooklyn subway, was actually caught three times by the Border Patrol trying to sneak in from Canada. The third time the Canadians would not take him back. What did we do? Because of a lack of detention space, he was simply released into the country and told to show up for his deportation hearing. After all, with so many millions of illegal aliens here already, how much harm could one more do?
Another example is Mohammed Salameh, who rented the truck in the first World Trade Center bombing. He should never have been granted a visa in the first place. When he applied for a tourist visa he was young, single, and had no income and, in the event, did indeed end up remaining illegally. And when his application for a green card under the 1986 illegal-alien amnesty was rejected, there was (and remains today) no way to detain and remove rejected green-card applicants, so he simply remained living and working in the United States, none the worse for wear. The same was true of Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who murdered two people at the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport on July 4, 2002 – he was a visa overstayer whose asylum claim was rejected. Yet with no mechanism to remove him, he remained and, with his wife, continued to apply for the visa lottery until she won and procured green cards for both of them.
Ordinary immigration enforcement actually has kept out several terrorists that we know of. A vigilant inspector in Washington State stopped Ahmed Ressam because of nervous behavior, and a search of his car uncovered a trunk full of explosives, apparently intended for an attack on Los Angeles International Airport. Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the candidates for the label of “20th hijacker,” was rejected four times for a visa, not because of concerns about terrorism but rather, according to a U.S. embassy source, “for the most ordinary of reasons, the same reasons most people are refused.” That is, he was thought likely to overstay his visa and become an illegal alien. And Mohamed Al-Qahtani, another one of the “20th hijacker” candidates, was turned away by an airport inspector in Orlando because he had no return ticket and no hotel reservations, and he refused to identify the friend who was supposed to help him on his trip.
Circa 2004. Again, if anything has changed, it’s been for the worse and the worst is yet to come. Full amnesty for illegals and essentially – open borders.
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