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Immigration Reform: Terrorists Have Applied For Green Cards

15 March 2010 No Comment

Last Thursday President Obama, whose commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is “unwavering,” met with Sen. Chuck Schumer D-N.Y. and Sen. Lindsey Graham R- S.C. to discuss a proposed bill to fix the broken immigration system. While the details remain somewhat elusive, according to the Los Angles Times:

“The basis of a bill would include a path toward citizenship for the 10.8 million people living in the U.S. illegally. Citizenship would not be granted lightly, the White House said. Undocumented workers would need to register, pay taxes and pay a penalty for violating the law. Failure to comply might result in deportation.”

With the recent failures of the government agencies on full display during the failed Christmas Day bombing of flight 253, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that would be responsible for processing millions of illegal aliens should a path to citizenship become law, deserves national security scrutiny.

Like the State Department, the USCIS is on the front lines of America’s defence. As we now know, Hillary Clinton’s State Department revoked known al-Qaida member Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab’s, visa after he allegedly attempted to blow up an airliner with explosives in his underwear. The credit for thwarting the Christmas Day terrorist attack goes to the passengers and the crew of flight 253—not to government agencies.

Under the Department of Homeland Security, the USCIS’ mission includes keeping nefarious people off U.S. soil while preserving America’s tradition as a nation of immigrants by processing lawful foreigners’ applications for visas, residency and citizenship.

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Immigration Benefits: Actions Needed to Address Vulnerabilities in Process for Granting Permanent Residency, “Terrorists and other individuals posing a threat to national security have applied for lawful permanent residency–” the Green Card. The “available data” provided to the GAO found that the “USCIS background checks identified individuals who were (1) KSTs [Known or suspected terrorist], (2) associates of terrorists, (3) involved in providing material support to terrorists or terrorist organizations, and (4) agents of a foreign government involved in espionage. From March 2003 through December 1, 2007, FDNS [Office of Fraud Detection and National Security] received about 14,500 national security referrals for all application types. According to FDNS officials, about 10 percent involved individuals on TSC’s [Terrorist Screening Center ] watch list and the balance of these cases involved individuals who were not on the terrorist watch list, but whose background checks indicated other possible national security concerns, such as those having associations with known or suspected terrorists.”

The same applies for the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

As the GAO report documents: “In addition to identifying potential national security concerns from checking an alien’s name against watch lists in TECS [Treasury Enforcement Communications System], name checks against the FBI’s investigative files have uncovered individuals who raised national security concerns. We reviewed a random sample created by FDNS of FBI name check results provided to USCIS to ascertain the types of national security concerns identified during the name check process. We found that the FBI provided information to USCIS that these individuals

• had associated with terrorist organizations,
• were agents of foreign governments,
• were involved in criminal activities, or
• had engaged in espionage against the United Sates…

While USCIS has some data on applicants with national security concerns, the data are limited because USCIS’s CLAIMS [Computer Linked Application Information Management System] was not designed to capture and routinely generate reports on the extent, type, and nature of national security threats posed by applicants. For example, this system does not routinely provide statistics on the visa categories used (e.g., family- or employment-based applications) and whether the immigration benefits were granted or denied. Such information could be useful to help identify the characteristics of applicants who could pose national security and terrorism-related concerns, and the avenues they may use to stay in the United States (emphasis mine).”

That said, to be fair, the GAO report noted that some action has been taken to improve the agencies performance, such as increasing staffing, but the report clearly states that the “USCIS has not completed actions necessary to address identified vulnerabilities.”

A search of the GAO website shows this report, dated December 2008, is the most recent on this subject.

In a side note, it is worth recalling that it was the Immigration Naturalization Services (now USCIS) that six months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, approved two of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi for student visas.

So while the Obama Administration and other lawmakers continue to push for a path to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens, they might want to check on the USCIS’ progress on addressing those GAO identified national security vulnerabilities before proceeding with any type of amnesty. The nation’s security may depend on it.

The next major immigration rally is set in Washington for March 21.

Cross posted at Biggovernment.com.

A nice mention here from David C. Morrison, Special to Congressional Quarterly Homeland Security.

Homies: New DHS software “tries to predict what would happen in a real-world terrorist attack . . . involving tens of thousands of people attending a major sporting event,” AOL News’ Sharon Weinberger spotlights. To DHS and sister agencies, “the nightmare prospect of a coalition of narcos and guerilleros cruising the border is reason enough to sustain agents on the ground south of the border,” John Ross ruminates from Mexico City for The San Francisco Bay Guardian. DHS’s USCIS, “the agency that would be responsible for processing millions of illegal aliens should a path to citizenship become law, deserves national security scrutiny,” Big Government’s Marinka Peschmann maintains.