Problems still abound in student visa program- Nexus between immigration and national security

Hi Gang:
The news agencies are, as would be expected, focused on the horrific bombing that took place at the finish line at the Boston Marathon yesterday, April 15th.
Reports are indicating that a Saudi citizen who is purportedly about 20 or 21 years old has been identified as a “person of interest.”  It has been reported that he entered the United States on a student visa.  It is extremely important to not jump to any conclusions about whether or not this person of interest will ultimately come to be considered a suspect or about any other possibilities where the perpetrator(s) of this act of terrorism is concerned.
That said, it is known that terrorist organizations including Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and others have targeted the United States.
The “all clear” has certainly not sounded!
On September 10, 2012 CAPS (Californians for Population Stabilization) posted my commentary on the lack of integrity to the student visa program.
I am providing you, below, with the e-mail including the e-mail I sent out one day before the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 I sent out back then because it is essential to realize that there is far more to the immigration system than the Southern Border of the United States.
It is unfathomable that the advocates for Comprehensive Immigration Reform are doing everything they can to distract Americans and the leaders of the Congress from paying any attention to any of the other critically important components of the immigration system.
However, before we get to my earlier e-mail and commentary, there are a few points I want to call your attention to-
This attack in Boston yesterday did not involve airplanes.  While it is vital to secure airliners from being hijacked and used as de facto cruise missiles as happened on September 11, 2001, there are nearly an infinite number of ways that terrorists can attack the United States.
The immigration system has many components and it is irresponsible to the point of dereliction of duty for our government officials to not be willing to understand how important all elements of the immigration system are to the two primary missions of protecting public safety and national security and protecting the jobs of American workers.   
Last night I was interviewed by a journalist and old friend, Kimberly Dvorak who writes for the Examiner and covers the immigration beat.
She posted her report that was entitled:

Border security and Boston attack highlights nexus between terrorism/immigration

 she described her article in which I was quoted, this way
While ignoring actual border security is the Administration’s modus operandi, the absence of discussion regarding those who come to U.S. seeking to kill Americans is thundering in its silence. Border Patrol refers to them as OTMs or “Other Than Mexicans.” As it turns out the OTMs are the fastest growing group of illegal border crossers that Border Patrol apprehends.
As you may know, I provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission.  The 9/11 Commission and the members of its staff were greatly concerned about the process by which visas were issued and the way that immigration benefits were conferred upon aliens who had entered the United States.
The 9/11 Commission prepared a voluminous report on the factors that contributed to the ability of the terrorists to enter the United States and carry out their attacks. 
Consider the paragraphs that were contained in that report that are provided below:

9/11 AND TERRORIST TRAVEL: Staff Report of the National Commission onTerrorist Attacks Upon the United States

Here are three important excerpts from that report, beginning with the first paragraph from the preface:

“It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country. Yet prior to September 11, while there were efforts to enhance border security, no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed, even after 19 hijackers demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. visa and gaining admission into the United States, border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy. We believe, for reasons we discuss in the following pages, that it must be made one.”

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.”

Page 47 of the above-noted report contained the following paragraph:

Once terrorists had entered the United States, their next challenge was to find a way to remain here. Their primary method was immigration fraud. For example, Yousef and Ajaj concocted bogus political asylum stories when they arrived in the United States. Mahmoud Abouhalima, involved in both the World Trade Center and landmarks plots, received temporary residence under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW) program, after falsely claiming that he picked beans in Florida. Mohammed Salameh, who rented the truck used in the bombing, overstayed his tourist visa. He then applied for permanent residency under the agricultural workers program, but was rejected. Eyad Mahmoud Ismail, who drove the van containing the bomb, took English-language classes at Wichita State University in Kansas on a student visa; after he dropped out, he remained in the United States out of status.

The “Eight Gangsters” are willing to compromise national security and the wellbeing of American workers to push their agenda.

While compromise

is essential to achieving goals especially in the political arena America’s security must never be compromised!

The potential for success for hard working Americans of every race, religion and ethnicity must never be compromised!
It is unfathomable that the advocates for Comprehensive Immigration Reform are doing everything they can to distract Americans and the leaders of the Congress from paying any attention to any of the other critically important components of the immigration system.
When we hear about the issue of “security checks” being promised by the Eight Gangsters, what is generally not understood by most Americans including, in my experience, politicians, is that aliens who have no arrest record in the United States will likely get a “no hit” on their fingerprints even if they have extensive criminal histories in their home countries.  If they use a false name, they will more than likely, be able to game this system.   
Of even greater concern is the lack of integrity to the process by which aliens acquire lawful immigrant status, United States citizenship or have their applications for other immigration benefits processed.
Here are a few links to some recent articles I have written for CAPS that focus on these failures:
As promised- here is my earlier e-mail, in its entirety- that has taken on possible relevance the morning after that horrific bombing in Boston yesterday on “Patriots’ Day:”
Problems still abound in student visa program
Michael W. Cutler, Senior Special Agent, INS (Ret.)              September 10, 2012
Hi Gang:
CAPS (Californians for Population Stabilization) just posted my latest commentary. 
The timing of this commentary was not an accident- it delves into issues were subsequently determined to have played a role in the terrorist attacks that cost some 3,000 innocent victims their lives eleven years ago.
A copy of that commentary is attached below.
It deals with how our “leaders” absolutely refuse to learn the lessons that history should have taught them as evidenced by how dysfunctional the system that is supposed to make certain that the program by which foreign students are admitted into the United States has integrity.
As you will see in my article which was predicated on an extremely disturbing GAO report, there are some 10,000 schools in the United States that are authorized to issue the forms that enable foreign students to apply for student visas to enter the United States.  There are now an estimated 850,000 such foreign students attending various schools and, as it turns out, there is little integrity to this program to make certain that the schools even exist!
Where flight schools are concerned- the information provided by the GAO will do even more to keep you from sleeping at night!  The GAO estimated that 38% of the flight schools did not have all of the relevant paperwork on file and, in fact, an earlier report noted that at least one such flight school was found to be owned and operated by illegal aliens!
On August 2, 2012, CAPS posted my commentary that borrowed the title of the GAO report that predicated my commentary:
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same things the same way and expecting a different result.  My dad had a slightly different way of addressing the same issue- he told me that mistakes should serve as lessons.  However, he made it clear that only a fool would not learn from mistakes and go on to repeat them again!  For him and for me, such foolishness was unacceptable!
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 the federal government convened the 9/11 Commission.  It was supposed to serve the same purpose that the commissions that were convened to determine how two of America’s space shuttles were lost in catastrophic accidents.  When an airplane crashes the NTSB similarly conducts a thorough investigation with the goal being to prevent similar accidents from causing future crashes.
The 9/11 Commission made it clear that the visa process and the immigration benefits program were easily gamed by the terrorists who so savagely attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.  That commission also identified 94 terrorists who entered the United States in the decade leading up to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and determined that 59 of those terrorists availed themselves of opportunities to game the visa process and the immigration benefits program. 
In fact, even earlier, on May 20, 1997 the House Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing entitled:
I was one of the witnesses called to that hearing.  It would mark my first appearance before a Congressional hearing but hardly my last.
The motivation for that hearing was the terrorist attacks of 1993 that were committed on American soil.  In January 1993 Amir Kansi, a citizen of Pakistan who had committed fraud in his application for political asylum succeeded in acquiring political asylum stood outside CIA Headquarters in Virginia and opened fire with an AK-47.  He fired upon the vehicles being driven into the CIA parking lot.  He killed two CIA officers and wounded three others.  Just one month later, on February 26th, a team of terrorists from the Middle East carried out the first bombing at the World Trade Center that killed 6 innocent victims and injured approximately one thousand victims.  
They had all committed visa fraud and some had gamed the immigration benefits program.  
It was estimated that one half billion dollars in damages were inflicted on that iconic centerpiece of the lower Manhattan skyline.  But for a bit of luck, one of the towers that stretched nearly a quarter of a mile into the sky, would have toppled into other building potentially causing a domino-like cascade of buildings in lower Manhattan.  The number of casualties that might have resulted is mind boggling!
Yet the Clinton administration did absolutely nothing to address the serious vulnerabilities that enabled those terrorists to enter the United States and embed themselves as they went about their pernicious preparations.
On September 1, 2006 the House Judiciary Committee held a field hearing at Dubuque, Iowa on the topic:
I was one of the witnesses who testified at that hearing.  I made mention of the way that immigration benefit fraud enabled the terrorists to embed themselves in the United States by citing the specific example of one of the terrorists who participated in the 1993 World Trade Center attack.  Here is an excerpt from my testimony:

    A notable example of such a terrorist can be found in a review of the facts concerning Mahmud Abouhalima, a citizen of Egypt who entered the United States on a tourist visa, overstayed his authorized period of admission and then applied for amnesty under the agricultural worker provisions of IRCA. He succeeded in obtaining resident alien status through this process. During the 5 year period he drove a cab and had his license suspended numerous times for various violations of law and he ultimately demonstrated his appreciation for our Nation’s generosity by participating in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 that left six people dead, hundreds of people injured and an estimated one-half billion dollars in damages inflicted on that iconic, ill-fated complex. America had opened his doors to him so that he might participate in the American dream and he turned that dream into our worst nightmare. The other terrorists who attacked our Nation on subsequent attacks, including the attacks of September 11, 2001, similarly exploited our generosity, seeing in our Nation’s kindness, weakness, gaming the immigration system to enter our country and then hide in plain sight among us.
It is infuriating that eleven years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and nearly 20 years after the terrorist attacks of 1993 that the leaders of our government refuse to accept that immigration law enforcement and border security are two vital components of national security!
The first step in problem solving is to identify and acknowledge that a problem exists.  Clearly this administration refuses to address vulnerabilities that, God forbid. may provide the opportunities to a future team of terrorists to launch yet another terrorist attack on American soil and kill more innocent victims!
I cannot begin to imagine what my dad would have said about this level of insanity if he was still alive today!
Immigration is not a single issue but a singular issue that impacts nearly every challenge and threat confronting the United States today!

If our government’s failures to protect American jobs by securing our nation’s borders and effectively enforcing our immigration laws 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.

Immigration is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, immigration is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!

You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

-michael cutler- 

Please check out my website at AND Magazine:

Please also check out my personal website:

       
On Friday evenings from 7:00 PM until 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time, I host my show, “The Michael Cutler Hour” on the USA Talk Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio.
I hope you will be listening!  (Please tell your friends and neighbors!)
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http://www.caps-blog.org/articles/2012/09/10/problems-still-abound-in-student-visa-program/

Problems still abound in student visa program

Today my commentary is based on an article that appeared in Government Executive Magazine on July 18, 2012.  In fact, the title for that article serves as the title for my commentary.  The Government Executive Magazine article was itself predicated on a GAO report that was issued in June 2012 and bore the title:

STUDENT AND EXCHANGE VISITOR PROGRAM

DHS Needs to Assess Risks and Strengthen Oversight Functions

The deficiencies that were identified and memorialized in the GAO report cannot be over-emphasized especially as we approach the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

While most people understand that our nation’s security is imperiled when aliens evade the inspections process and run our nation’s borders, many people fail to understand that a lack of integrity to the lawful entry process creates a serious threat to national security as well.

Indeed, it must be remembered that the 19 terrorists who so savagely attacked the United States on September 11, 2001 managed to game the visa process and the process by which aliens are admitted into the United States at ports of entry.

Many people would be surprised to know how many foreign students are currently present in the United States or how many schools are authorized to issue the forms that enable foreign students to obtain student visas.

The GAO report provided some important numbers.  It noted that there are some 10,000 schools authorized to enroll foreign students and that there are roughly 850,000 foreign students studying in those schools that are scattered across the United States.  Considering the huge number of schools and students, it is obvious that not all of these schools are truly institutions of “higher learning.”  Upon considering the findings of the GAO as memorialized in the report that agency issued, it is clear that some of those schools are not really schools at all, but exist simply to provide profits to those who run them and serve to permit aliens to enter the United States by creating the illusion of lawful entry and the illusion of lawful presence in the United States by aliens who use the term “student” as a means of creating an aura of legality for themselves when, in fact, there is no way of knowing why they are actually here.

GAO reported that some 457,000 students’ visas were issued in 2011.  The report makes it clear that there is little integrity to the entire program and even where flight schools are concerned.  The Government Executive Magazine article contained the following excerpt:

A Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday found that case files of many institutions certified by the student and exchange visitor program lacked the necessary evidence required by regulations. The report also found that 38 percent of flight schools, which are required to register with the Federal Aviation Administration, had not done so.

Here is an excerpt from the GAO Report’s findings of failures:

ICE has not consistently implemented existing controls, in accordance with internal control standards and fraud prevention practices, to verify schools’ legitimacy and eligibility during initial SEVP certification and once schools begin accepting foreign students. Specifically, ICE officials do not consistently verify certain evidence initially submitted by schools in lieu of accreditation. In addition, ICE does not maintain records to document SEVP-certified schools’ ongoing compliance. GAO found that 30 of a randomly-selected sample of 48 SEVP- certified school case files lacked at least one piece of required evidence, such as proof of school officials’ citizenship or permanent residency. ICE was unable to produce 2 of the 50 case files. ICE officials noted that some files were missing because they were lost or destroyed when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took over the program from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service; moreover, ICE officials cannot quantify how many files are missing. Without verification of evidence and complete case files, ICE cannot provide reasonable assurance that schools were initially and continue to be eligible for certification. Further, ICE policies require that SEVP-certified flight schools offering flight training have specific Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications; however, GAO found that approximately 167 of 434 (or 38 percent) SEVP-certified flight schools do not have the required certifications as of December 2011.

Remember, this report was issued nearly 11 years after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in which some of those terrorists who participated in those attacks had attended flight schools in the United States.  For me, there is a personal component to this.

On March 19, 2002 I testified before a hearing convened by the House Immigration Subcommittee on the topic:

“INS’S MARCH 2002 NOTIFICATION OF APPROVAL OF CHANGE OF STATUS FOR PILOT TRAINING FOR TERRORIST HIJACKERS MOHAMMED ATTA AND MARWAN AL-SHEHHI”

The hearing was covered by C-SPAN and the video of that entire hearing is certainly worth watching!

You may also review the transcript of that hearing, in its entirety.

It is unfathomable that roughly 130 months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 such gaping holes abound in the student visa program!  I would remind you that on September 11, 2001 approximately 3,000 innocent lives were obliterated by the worst terrorist attack ever committed on American soil and more victims have since perished because of their exposure to the toxins that were released during those attacks.

Ironically, on December 7, 1941 some 3,000 people were killed when the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor.  Yet just 44 months later, World War II was brought to a successful conclusion.  America was not yet considered a “Super-Power” and yet, working with our allies we built fleets of aircraft that had never before existed, fleets of ships that had never existed before, brand new weapons systems and innovations such as radar and even atomic weapons.

America and its leaders of the “Greatest Generation” rose to accept the challenges and the phrase “Can do!” all but became America’s motto!

We are still waging a “War on Terror” but the sense of focus and mission that was evidenced by our government during the Second World War is nowhere to be found where America’s leaders are concerned today.

Our immigration laws exist for two primary purposes- to protect American lives and protect Americans’ jobs.  The abject lack of integrity to our borders and our immigration system compromise those two vital goals at a time when there can be no compromise!


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