Political Asylum: How America’s Compassion Creates National Security Nightmares

Michael Cutler Former INS Special Agent
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America has traditionally been a place of refuge for the downtrodden of the world. That was the message in Emma Lazarus’ famous poem, fastened to the base of the Statue of Liberty, and serves as the basis for our beliefs as Americans.

Of all of the countries on the face of the earth, the United States has come to be seen as the country that most embodies compassion. As the grandson of a woman who was slaughtered in Poland during the Holocaust I certainly understand the nearly instinctive urge most Americans have to provide a safe haven for people from around the world who are at risk.

However, we live in historically difficult and perilous times. Because the United States is a superpower, those who would attack us understand that they cannot mount a full frontal assault on our nation. Our enemies and their proxies, terrorist organizations, know that they must engage in asymmetrical warfare which is, in fact, how terrorism is defined.

On February 12, 2015 ABC News posted a report, “U.S. Officials Admit Concern Over Syrian Refugee Effort.” This report could be filed under “Back to the Future.”

The 9/11 Commission Staff Report on Terrorist Travel detailed numerous examples of instances where terrorists made use of visa and immigration benefit fraud- including political asylum fraud to enter the United States also to also embed themselves in the United States.

Page 54 contained this excerpt under the title “3.2 Terrorist Travel Tactics by Plot.”

Because terrorist operations were not suicide missions in the early to mid-1990s, once in the United States terrorists and their supporters tried to get legal immigration status that would permit them to remain here, primarily by committing serial, or repeated, immigration fraud, by claiming political asylum, and by marrying Americans. Many of these tactics would remain largely unchanged and undetected throughout the 1990s and up to the 9/11 attack.

Thus, abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity. It would remain largely unknown, since no agency of the United States government analyzed terrorist travel patterns until after 9/11. This lack of attention meant that critical opportunities to disrupt terrorist travel and, therefore, deadly terrorist operations were missed.

This paragraph is found on page 98 under the title “Immigration Benefits:”

“Terrorists 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.”

During the Second World War when armies sought to attack another country they sent their soldiers, especially their commandos, behind “enemy lines.” These combatants may have parachuted from airplanes in the dead of night or may have made their way to the enemy’s coastline in submarines, continuing their journey onto land by rowboats.

Today terrorists view the borders of the United States as the “enemy lines” but do not need to jump out of airplanes in the dead of night or come ashore on submarines to get behind those lines. They simply need to get to our land borders, either in Mexico or Canada and evade the inspections process, stow away on ships or, as was the case for nearly all of the terrorists who have been thus far identified, purchase an airline ticket and land at any of America’s many international airports and stroll through the terminal to a waiting car or taxi, having committed visa fraud. The ever-expanding list of visa waiver countries may even obviate the visa requirement for some terrorists. .

Many of these aliens simply disappear into the woodwork of communities around the United States, especially in sanctuary cities where local officials shield these aliens from federal authorities who, under the present administration aren’t particularly concerned about locating them. I discussed my concerns about this issue in my September 24, 2014 article for FrontPage Magazine article, “‘Sanctuary Cities’ or ‘Safe Havens’ for Terrorists?

On January 23, 2015 FrontPage Magazine published my article,“Sleeper Cells: The Immigration Component of the Threat” which explored the way terrorists find opportunities to hide in plain sight, thereby embedding themselves, along with myths about how open borders goals have caused our politicians to refer sleeper agents as being “home grown.”

Additionally, the refugee program administered by the United Nations works with the United States to send refugees to the United States to help those displaced by war and other political upheavals. In theory this is about being compassionate. However, refugees and aliens who claim political asylum come from countries such as Syria, where it is all but impossible to conduct a meaningful vetting process to determine if the aliens are truly endangered by the circumstances in their homelands or if they come with sinister intentions.

On February 5, 2014 the Washington Times published a truly disconcerting article, “Audit finds asylum system rife with fraud; approval laws broken with surge of immigrants.”

This report began with the following two paragraphs:

At least 70 percent of asylum applications showed signs of fraud, according to a secret 2009 internal government audit that found many of those cases had been approved anyway.

The 2009 fraud assessment, obtained by the House Judiciary Committee and reviewed by The Washington Times, suggests a system open to abuse and exploitation at a time when the number of people applying for asylum in the U.S. has skyrocketed, particularly along the southwestern border.

On December 12, 2013 a hearing was conducted on the issue: “Asylum Abuse: Is it Overwhelming our Borders?”

This hearing included information that members of Mexican drug cartels had successfully gamed the asylum process and were granted political asylum seeking to either hide from there compeititors in the United States or sought to be able to track down their competitors inside the United States to attack them.

On February 11, 2014 a hearing was conducted on the issue: “Asylum Fraud: Abusing America’s Compassion?”

Both hearings made it clear that there is a serious lack of integrity to the political asylum program. This important humanitarian program programs thousands of applications each year yet the fraud rate in this program bars witness to the lack of integrity. Because USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) cannot effectively identify fraud and take measures to counter this fraud, national security is compromised.

Consider this excerpt from the prepared testimony of the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte:

Accounts indicate that aliens are being coached in the asylum process and are being taught to use certain terms to ensure that they are found to have a credible fear. According to critics many of these claims are often an orchestrated sham.

In addition to this alarming trend, the House Judiciary Committee recently obtained an internal CBP memo that states many people claiming a “credible fear” of persecution at our ports of entry have a direct or indirect association with drug trafficking and other illegal activity, such as human smuggling. Since there are intelligence gaps and loopholes in the system, the asylum process is often being abused by individuals who would otherwise be subjects of interest or subjects of criminal investigations. Once these unscrupulous individuals falsely claim a “credible fear” of persecution, there is virtually no investigation by U.S. authorities. Because the Obama Administration refuses to detain most of them, criminals and those who pose national security threats are then able to live and work in the U.S. for many years before their cases are ever heard by immigration judges.

It is clear that the Republican leadership understands full well that there is absolutely no integrity to the adjudications process conducted by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), the very same inept, overwhelmed and incompetent division of the DHS that will be used to adjudicate millions of applications filed by illegal aliens for lawful status under Obama’s proposed executive orders, and would also be responsible for implementing comprehensive immigration reform. Nevertheless the Republican leadership in Congress and aspiring presidential candidates for the 2016 presidential election continue to insist that this disastrous program would be good for America.

My concerns about the myriad failures of the immigration system was the focus of my article that FrontPage Magazine posted on July 7, 2014, “Border Security and the Immigration Colander.

Currently advocates for comprehensive immigration reform have claimed that it would be appropriate to establish the goal of securing the border that is supposed to separate the United States from Mexico as the prerequisite for implementing any kind of large-scale reform. They are blithely ignoring that our nation has 50 border states. Any state that has an international airport, coastal access, or lies along America’s northern or southern borders is a “border state.”

They are also ignoring that the process by which applications for visas and various immigration benefits are adjudicated lacks even a modicum of integrity. The immigration system is like a colander in which there are many holes, yet all our leaders appear to be willing to do is partially plug just one of many holes in a system that has profound national security implications.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001 Condoleeza Rice stated, without equivocation, that “The United States must get it ‘right’ 100 percent of the time if we were to prevent the next terror attack and, to succeed, the terrorists only have to get it ‘right’ once!”

Every alien who evades the inspections process, commits visa fraud or immigration fraud without detection carries with it the potential for a terror success and an American nightmare.

America’s kindness must never create vulnerabilities for our nation or our citizens.