"Are We Granting Visas to Terrorists? Is the U.S. leaving a back door wide open to extremists who mean us harm?"
Earlier today, March 9th Fox News aired a report that included an interview with Jon Tester (D) a United States Senator from Montana who is on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The topic of the news report and the related interview was the issue of how terrorists have gamed the visa system in order to attend what was described as “sham” universities in order to pose as students to enter the United States to gain entry into our country to ultimately attack our nation.
Please take the time to click on the links and watch the interview.
Senator Tester noted a number of terrorists who were able to make use of this strategy in order to participate in terrorist attacks in the United States or, at the least, attempt to carry out a terrorist attack. The most recent example of such an alleged terrorist can be found in the case of Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a 20 year old citizen of Saudi Arabia who was, allegedly, working toward the completion of bombs and other related devices that would have enabled him to have carried out multiple terrorist attacks across the United States had his efforts not been discovered and then thwarted by law enforcement officials and arrested in Texas last month.
Senator Tester is certainly correct about the need to exercise much more caution in processing applications for all visa categories of applications and not just students enrolled in “sham” universities.
According to the information that was conveyed during the discussion that was conducted during the broadcast, Senator Tester and other members of the United States Senate are about to propose legislation that would impose a maximum penalty upon conviction for individuals who are engaged in this process to circumvent our nation’s visa system.
I certainly welcome any efforts to increase the scrutiny of visa applications- indeed, ever since I have gone public about the deficiencies in the immigration system that have created vulnerabilities for our nation and our citizens, my concerns about fraud have been very high on the list of my concerns. You may be interested to know that, as I have pointed out in previous commentaries, the very first time I was invited to appear at a Congressional hearing was back on May 20, 1997 when the topic of that hearing was:
“Visa Fraud and Immigration Benefits Application Fraud”
The incentive for this hearing was the terrorist attacks that had been carried out more than four years earlier, in 1993 when in January of 1993 a Pakistani national by the name of Amir Kansi who had been granted political asylum even though he lied on his application. He repaid our nation’s kindness (and frankly, ineptitude) by opening fire on cars being driven into the CIA parking lot that winter morning with an AK-47 and killing 2 CIA officers and wounding 3 others. He fled from the United States, was located, arrested and brought back to the United States to stand trial for those murders and assaults and was found guilty and executed for his crimes- but his victims remained dead.
One month later, in February 1993 attack at the World Trade Center involving the planting of a bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center garage located under that once iconic complex left six victims dead, hundreds injured and an estimated 500 million dollars in damages inflicted on the complex that nearly caused one of the huge towers to topple sideways.
The terrorists involved in this attack had committed visa fraud and immigration benefit fraud in order to enter our country and/or embed themselves in our country.
Nearly 9 years ago, in March of 2002, I was called to provide testimony about two other “students” who had gamed the immigration system. There names were Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi. If their names are familiar it may be because they were two of the terrorists who participated in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Here is the link to the C-SPAN video of the Congressional hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, at which I testified on March 19, 2002 as you watch this video I want you to consider how much has not changed in the more than 9 years since the attacks of September 11, 2001:
What is important to understand is that there are already a variety of laws on the books that deal quite effectively with visa fraud.
Today, even without the passage of new laws, anyone who is found guilty of engaging in passport fraud or visa fraud in support of terrorism faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Additionally, there are other laws that deal with false statements and those who enter into criminal conspiracies in furtherance of criminal or terrorist objectives. I certainly have no objection to new laws, even if they may be redundant. However, I believe that rather than provide our nation with new laws, our government needs to provide our nation with the manpower to actually conduct the investigations of those who would defraud the visa system and take advantage of gaping holes in the systems that are already in place to do harm to this country.
Here is a link to a United States State Department website that neatly outlines the various laws that address visa fraud and related violations of law including penalties for such violations of law:
What is a visa? The U.S. visa is a document, obtained at any U.S. embassy or consulate, granting a non-U.S. traveler permission to apply for admission into the United States at a port of entry. It is not a guarantee of entry into the United States. Department of Homeland Security inspectors determine if, and for how long, an alien is admitted. To learn more about applying for a U.S. visa, visit Destination USA.
There are two basic types of visas:
Immigrant visa (IV) — Immigrant visas are for people who intend to live permanently in the United States, as provided by the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Nonimmigrant visa (NIV) — Nonimmigrant visas are for people who wish to visit the United States temporarily–for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study. Some applicants intend to abuse their nonimmigrant visas by remaining in the United States illegally.
What are typical types of visa fraud?
? The sale, provision, or transfer of otherwise legitimate visas
? Misrepresentation of reasons for traveling
? Forgery or alteration of a visa
Who commits visa fraud and why?
? Unlawful immigrants for a variety of reasons, most commonly including:
— Flight from prosecution
— Facilitation of narcotics and terrorist operations ? Brokers and smugglers in the furtherance of other crimes
? Federal employees, usually for monetary gain
Visa fraud and related statutes include:
? 18 USC 1546 Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits, and Other Documents ? 18 USC 1001 False Statements or Entries Generally ? 18 USC 1028 Fraud in Connection with Identification Documents ? 18 USC 201 Bribery of Public Officials ? 18 USC 371 Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud the United States
Penalties for Passport and Visa Fraud
Passport and visa fraud are federal felonies. Penalties are:
? 10 years (for a first offense if not tied to terrorism or drug trafficking) ? 15 years for fraud with other criminal links ? 20 years for fraud related to drug trafficking ? 25 years for fraud related to international terrorism
While we are on the topic of how terrorists have gamed the process by which visas are provided to students from foreign countries that enable them to enter the United States, we should also consider how often aliens engage in marriage fraud whereby they marry a United States citizen or resident alien in order to secure an Alien Registration Card (Green Card) that signifies that they have been granted lawful immigrant status and have been placed on the pathway to United States citizenship. We should consider how many aliens have gamed the visa programs that provide temporary visas for foreign workers, who, contrary to the intention of the law, do indeed replace American and resident alien workers by accepting much lower wages and virtually no benefit packages. In fact, many times such “temporary workers” don’t even meet the qualifications to do the jobs they claim they will do and take on totally different jobs secure in the knowledge that ICE will have no interest in looking for them because of an abject lack of resources to conduct field investigations!
The GAO has issued numerous reports on various aspects of immigration benefit fraud and other failings of the immigration system. You can see a list of these reports at:
Casey Wian and his producer, Sara Weisfeldt interviewed me for this report and I appear briefly on screen.
On May 10, 2010 I was interviewed by Daniel Gonzalez, a reporter with the Arizona Republic for an news report titled, “U.S. not cracking down on immigrants with expired visas.” Here is the link to the news report in which I was quoted:
Another important issue you should consider is the insane Visa Waiver Program which enables aliens from some 36 countries to enter the United States without first applying for and obtaining a visa for the United States. Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber attempted to destroy a U.S. bound airliner that was packed with passengers and crew members by detonating explosives he had hidden in his shoes. Richard Reid is a citizen of Great Britain and therefore he was not required to obtain a visa before flying to the United States to apply for admission into our country. Had he been required to obtain a visa, if there had been no Visa Waiver Program, it is likely he would never have secured the visa and would have not been permitted to board the airliner he intended to destroy. Our government officials now require citizens of the United States and all others who seek to board airliners to remove their shoes for inspection because of Mr. Reid- however, the vulnerability created by the Visa Waiver Program has not only been utterly ignored, but more countries have since been added to list of those countries whose citizens do not need to seek visas before traveling to the United States to apply for admission into our country even though other terrorists have also entered our country under the Visa Waiver Program!
You can review the State Department’s website for information about this wrong headed and, indeed, treacherous Visa Waiver Program at:
Some time ago I compiled a list of the ways in which the visa process can be helpful to law enforcement and bolster our nation’s efforts to prevent the entry of aliens whose presence on our country may prove harmful to our nation and our citizens.
Here is the list of the 6 benefits that the visa requirement provides to national security and that the Visa Waiver Program denies our nation:
1. By requiring visas of aliens who seek to enter the United States, this process helps to screen potential passengers on airliners that are destined to the United States. Richard Reid, the so-called “Shoe Bomber” was able to board an airliner to come to the United States although he had no intentions of entering the United States, his apparent goal was to blow up the airliner and its many passengers somewhere over the depths of the Atlantic Ocean by detonating explosives he had concealed in his shoes. Because he is a subject of Great Britain, a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, Reid did not obtain a visa before he boarded that airliner.
2. The CBP inspectors are supposed to make a decision in one minute or less as to the admissibility of an alien seeking to enter the United States. The visa requirement helps them to do a more effective job. Their’s is a tough job I can certainly relate to, I began my career at the former INS as an immigration inspector at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and worked there for 4 years before I became a special agent.
3. The application for a nonimmigrant visa contains roughly 40 questions that could provide invaluable information to law enforcement officials should that alien become the target of a criminal or terrorist investigation. The information could provide intelligence as well as investigative leads. You can check out the application for a nonimmigrant (tourist) visa by clicking on this link:
4. If an alien applicant lies on the application for a visa that lie is called “visa fraud.” The maximum penalty for visa fraud starts out at 10 years in jail for those who commit this crime simply in order to come to the United States, ostensibly to seek unlawful employment or other such purpose. The penalty increases to 15 years in jail for those aliens who obtain a visa to commit a felony. For aliens who engage in visa fraud to traffic in narcotics or commit another narcotics-related crime, the maximum jail sentence that can be imposes rises to 20 years. Finally, when an alien can be proven to have engaged in visa fraud in furtherance of terrorism, the maximum penalty climbs to 25 years in prison. It is important to note that while it may be difficult to prove that an individual is a terrorist, it is usually relatively simple to prove that the alien has committed visa fraud when there is fraud involved in the visa application. Indeed, terror suspects are often charged with visa fraud.
5. The charge of visa fraud can also be extremely helpful to law enforcement authorities who want to take a bad guy off the street without tipping their hand to the other members of a criminal conspiracy or terrorism conspiracy that the individual arrested was being arrested for his involvement in terrorism or a criminal organization. You can arrest the alien who commits visa fraud for that violation of law and not for other charges that might make it clear that the investigation underway is targeting a criminal or terrorist organization.
6. Even when an alien applies for a visa and his application is denied, the application he filed remains available for law enforcement and intelligence personnel to review to seek to glean intelligence from that application.
Finally, I have to raise an issue that has a nasty habit of rearing its ugly head periodically under various guises. The program I am referring to is Amnesty!
The most recent attempt at foisting Amnesty on our nation and our citizens was the “DREAM Act!”
There are many, many reasons why a sweeping, massive amnesty program would be wrong for our nation and our citizens but first and foremost is the issue of national security. The fact that under such a program, unknown millions of illegal aliens whose true identities, backgrounds, potential affiliation with criminal or especially terrorist organizations would be unknown and unknowable. This is why I wrote an Op-Ed article for the Washington Times several years ago where I recommended that the bill that was then being hotly debated that was known as “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” should be given a far more accurate and honest name. I suggested that it be called the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act!”
Senator Sessions of Alabama quoted from my commentary on three separate days from the floor of the United States Senate during the floor debate.
Here is a link to my Op-Ed which was titled, Immigration bill a ‘No Go’
Because or the long standing failures to secure our borders and create an immigration system that has integrity our nation and our citizens remain exposed to serious threats.
This must stop!
Nothing less than the survival of our nation and our citizens hang in the balance!
A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!
our country is to survive and if our children and their children are to get their share of the “American Dream” the citizens of this nation must take their citizenship seriously!
We the People must be the best citizens we can be, citizens who are worthy of the gallantry demonstrated by our valiant men and women in the military, law enforcement and firefighters, who routinely go in harm’s way in defense of this nation and our citizens.
My goal in writing this and other commentaries is to point out our nations many failings before more victims pay the ultimate price for the incompetence and ineptitude of our government.
The first step in problem-solving is to first identify the problems and vulnerabilities and then devise strategies to overcome them.
If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same. We need to create a “Bucket Brigade of Truth!”
The practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there.
The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!
The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians. I implore you to resolve this year to get involved!
I believe our nation’s is greatly benefited by the rich diversity of our people which is why I could never imagine living anywhere except New York City, arguably the most diverse city in our nation if not, in fact, the world. However, my idea of diversity most certainly does not include members of MS-13, the Mexican drug cartels or members of other transnational gangs or members of al-Qaeda!
If this situation concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional “Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation!
All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are!
We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance.
This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!
You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem!