Immigration Law Enforcement: A Vital Component Of National Security And Counterterrorism

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Michael Cutler Former INS Special Agent
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On October 31, 2015 a Russian airliner was blown out of the skies over Egypt. Two weeks later, on November 13th a savage terror attack in Paris killed and wounded hundreds of innocent people. ISIS was apparently behind both.

Despite the claims of the Obama administration that ISIS is being “contained” ISIS operatives are easily able to cross international borders and carry out deadly terror attacks. In point of fact, while the 9/11 Commission examined multiple aspects of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the ability of terrorists to travel freely and conceal their identities were identified as being key to the ability of the terrorists to carry out deadly operations in the United States.

The 9/11 Commission Report addressed these flaws and vulnerabilities in the immigration system that failed to prevent the entry and subsequent embedding of not only the 19 hijackers who savagely attacked our nation on that horrific day 14 years ago, but other terrorists who were identified as operating in the United States in the decade leading up to the attacks of 9/11.

Members of the 9/11 Commission staff, authored an official government report, “9/11 and Terrorist Travel: Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United Statesthat focused specifically on the ability of the terrorists to travel around the world, enter the United States and ultimately embed themselves in our country as they went about their deadly preparations. Page 54 of this report contained this excerpt under the title “3.2 Terrorist Travel Tactics by Plot”:

Although there is evidence that some land and sea border entries (of terrorists) without inspection occurred, these conspirators mainly subverted the legal entry system by entering at airports.In doing so, they relied on a wide variety of fraudulent documents, on aliases, and on government corruption. 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.

The current (Summer 2015) edition of The Social Contract included my extensive article, “ The 9/11 Commission Report and Immigration: An Assessment, Fourteen Years after the Attacks” in which I focused, in detail, the ways in which current administration has failed to take the findings and advice of the 9/11 Commission to use immigration as a defensive weapon in our arsenal.

Many of our leaders are oblivious to the nexus between effective immigration law enforcement and national security, claiming that “since we cannot deport millions of illegal aliens we should give them lawful status.” They ignore the fact that it would be impossible to interview millions of illegal aliens who had evaded the vetting process conducted by Customs and Border Protection inspectors at ports of entry and no capacity to conduct field investigations of these aliens.

In my June 22, 2007 Op-Ed for the Washington Times, “Immigration bill a ‘No Go, I said that Comprehensive Immigration Reform should be renamed the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act.”

Routine enforcement of our immigration laws would also provide opportunities to cultivate informants and cooperators in immigrant communities. I spent half of my thirty year career with the INS assigned to the working with other agencies on investigations into major narcotics trafficking organizations. One of my key responsibilities was to use my authority as an INS agent to help other agencies including the FBI, DEA, ATF and local and state police departments to cultivate informants.

Yet often the same politicians who say that we should build the Joint Terrorism Task Force, such as Governor Kasich, ignore that immigration enforcement personnel constitute the second greatest contingent of members of the JTTF — next to the FBI.

Given that Europe has become a hotbed for terrorism, the ever-expanding Visa Waiver Program must be terminated. On May 11, 2006 I testified before a congressional hearing conducted by the House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on the topic, “Visa Overstays: Can We Bar The Terrorist Door?

Finally, the administration plans to resettle thousands of Syrian refugees and who cannot be vetted will further undermine national security. While the administration claims that these refugees are being vetted, the reality is that there is no way to actually screen these people, as FBI Director James Comey admitted earlier this year.