Exclusive: H1B Visa Holder Attempted Fannie Mae Sabotage – Where’s the Outrage?

by MICHAEL CUTLER February 3, 2009
A citizen of India, Rajendrasinh B. Makwana attempted to sabotage the computer database at Fannie Mae. He was, according to news reports, employed as a so-called temporary foreign worker who had been authorized to work in the United States temporarily under the provisions of the H1B visa that had been issued to him.
 
Here’s how this appalling situation can be summed up:
 
This is the real threat to society, not the sinking of Fannie Mae. But the strange case of Makwana does bring up a number of issues. The main one is the use of H1B visa workers – and holders of other alien-worker documentation – in sensitive areas.
 
Why was Makwana working at Fannie Mae in the first place? Are you telling me no American citizen could have done his job?
 
This is not a new concern. It has long been believed that in most cases H1B visas in technology have been exploited by companies such as Fannie Mae only because programmers coming from India work cheaper. But there is no way of knowing much about any of these folks, and that immediately becomes a homeland-security issue.
 
The issue of this Fannie Mae employee actually illuminates an even broader issue that can be summed up with a simple question: "What constitutes critical infrastructure?"
 
An individual who is intent on attacking our nation would find that the United States offers so many tempting targets, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
 
On May 5, 2005, I was called upon to testify before the House Subcommittee in Immigration, Border Security and Claims at a hearing that was entitled “New ‘Dual Missions’ of the Immigration Enforcement Agencies."
 
During the hearing, as I sat next to one of the other witnesses, Richard Stanna of the GAO (General Accounting Office- as that agency was then called), I was more than a bit astounded that Mr. Stana made the point that there was still no mission statement for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). As he made that incredible admission of the incompetence of our government some several years after the worst terrorist attack ever committed on our nation's soil – which was carried our entirely by foreign nationals who had easily gamed the immigration system – my head felt as though it was going to explode!
 
Rep. Steve King (the current ranking member of the House Immigration Subcommittee) asked me about the issue of the attrition problem at ICE. Certainly, attrition is a major issue. It has been estimated that it costs well over $100,000 to recruit and train each new special agent, and it takes upwards of five years for a new special agent to truly be "up to speed." Additionally, the massive attrition crisis at ICE contributes to a loss of "institutional memory" at that agency.
 
I started to respond to Rep. King's important question and then, with the words of Richard Stana still reverberating in my head, I asked King if I could please comment on the lack of a mission statement for ICE more than three years after the attacks of 9/11.
 
I was given permission, and I wound up speaking for far longer than the normal time limit, doing everything I could to make it clear that this was an utterly unacceptable situation.
 
Here is the transcript of the initial part of my response:
 
We can't look at immigration enforcement and say, well, we're just going to go after illegal aliens, or we're just going to go after terrorists. Sleepers, which, as you know, Robert Mueller, the head of the FBI, talked to the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing back in February, talked about his concerns about sleeper agents. Sleeper agents aren't people that just simply come into the country and dig a hole in the ground like a cicada and hide there for a year or two waiting for a phone call; they are people that hide in plain sight.
 
If it's employment that draws the bulk of the illegal aliens across the border; it's immigration fraud that enables them to stay here and hide in plain sight. And if we don't address that issue, and if we are told that there's still no real mission statement 3 1/2 years into what's been billed as a war on terror, it gives me cause for pause.
 
And if you go to the ICE website, the Homeland Security website, what is amazing to me – because I just checked it yesterday, because you would think that the home page of any organization would be where you set forth your number one, number two, number three priority. Well, there wasn't a single thing on that Website that related back to the enforcement of immigration law other than an I-9 and the fact that they've gone to electronic I-9s. Now, if this is supposed to be homeland security, I have yet another reason not to go to sleep this evening.
 
The one point I did not address at the hearing, but wish I had, was the point that Richard Stana made about how as a component of DHS, ICE had to prioritize the use for its extremely limited resources and needed to focus on "trophy targets" rather than address the normal immigration issues of aliens working in industries such as the food industry.
 
This the direct quote from Mr. Stana on that point:
 
Mr. STANA. I would put it this way: I think it is more of a matter of what is the mission of ICE and CBP. Being in DHS, whose mission is to enhance national security and to fight terrorism, they are taking their cues from the broader organization. So when we talk about ICE not doing some things now in the interior enforcement of immigration policies, it's understandable. The ICE mission is now national security and antiterrorism. So what's happening is, at ICE and CBP, they are fulfilling that mission by, for example, in work site enforcement, by targeting their efforts to trophy targets, whether they be nuclear power plants, airplane tarmacs and so on. They are not going to the food processing plants like they used to because the mission of DHS is national security and antiterrorism. If we wanted a fundamental shift to bring the mission back to what it was in INS, and that is to enforce immigration law and to provide benefits to eligible aliens, then that would require a fundamental shift of structure. But that is not what the DHS mission is right now. That is number one.
 
As I asked before, "What constitutes critical infrastructure?"
 
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, our flat-footed government has been putting much emphasis on airline safety and screening passengers boarding airliners because we know that the terrorists of 9/11, in effect, turned passenger airliners into de facto cruise missiles with devastating results. Of course the screening process of those passengers is far from perfect, an issue I plan to write about in the near future, but the point is that while our government has paid an awful lot of attention on airliners, they are ignoring other areas of extreme vulnerability.
 
We often hear about ICE conducting field operations to go after illegal aliens who work on military bases doing construction work. Similarly, we hear about other illegal aliens who are arrested for working on power plants and other venues that have national security implications.
 
In reality, people who process our food are working in an industry that has major national security implications. Imagine how much damage a terrorist or a group of terrorists could do by poisoning food that is distributed around the United States to thousands, if not millions, of people.
 
Think about how many people are made ill by eating tainted food. The current problem food, peanut butter, has made headlines all around the United States. Outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli have raised similar concerns about public health.
 
I am not an expert in biology or chemistry. However, from what I have read, while concerns are often raised about protecting our reservoirs, almost no attention is paid to our food supply.
 
I am not attempting to criticize Richard Stana. In fact, I have respect for him. He is attempting to do the best job possible. The problem is that our government needs to think "outside the box." 
 
Another area of vulnerability that is virtually never addressed is the issue of immigration fraud. By not mounting a meaningful effort to weed out fraud in applications for immigration benefits, we hear of those aliens who succeed in becoming United States citizens by committing immigration fraud and then use their United States citizenship to acquire security clearances to either work for sensitive government agencies such as the FBI or CIA to gain access to sensitive databases. 
 
I do not know what motivated Rajendrasinh B. Makwana to attempt to wreak such havoc on Fannie Mae. He may simply have been "wacky," for lack of a better term, or he may have had a clear purpose in coming to the United States to work at that important government agency.
 
Hopefully, the investigators who are involved in this case will do a good job of "connecting the dots" and determine who he may have been affiliated with. I hope that these investigators will also seek to uncover if he had accomplices in the United States. This may help them to determine what motivated his actions and neutralize any further such actions if others are involved.
 
It has been said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The problem is that there is little done to properly screen aliens who seek to obtain visas to enable these aliens to enter the United States. 
 
The expansion of the Visa Waiver Program creates other vulnerabilities.
 
Additionally, of course, I reiterate the issue raised by Mr. Dvorak in the MarketWatch.com article linked above, which is one that all Americans must raise:
 
Why was Makwana working at Fannie Mae in the first place? Are you telling me no American citizen could have done his job?    
 
There have been members of Congress who are demanding that a cap be placed on the salaries of executives of companies that have received massive amounts of taxpayer money to bail out their respective companies. Here is my suggestion:
 
No company that receives taxpayer bailout money should be able to hire foreign workers unless they can truly prove that there are no Americans who can do those jobs. Furthermore, those companies should be subject to a scrutiny by special agents of ICE to make certain that the employees that they hire are lawfully present in the United States, to make certain that there are no illegal aliens working for them!
 
If the point to the government economic stimulus program is to get money into the hands of the citizens of our nation and to keep the money circulating throughout our nation's economy to create a "multiplier effect," then it is absolutely counterproductive to pay foreign workers whose goal is to send money back to their home countries and out of our nation's economy. Each and every year, tens of billions of dollars are wired or otherwise sent from the United States to the countries from which foreign workers come. This applies to illegal aliens as well as foreign workers who have temporary work visas.
 
It is better for the economy of the United States to pay an American worker more than to pay a foreign worker, because a better paid American will spend, save and invest his money right here, inside the United States of America.
 
When a person is nearsighted and fails to wear his glasses, he may walk into a wall. When our government is nearsighted, our nation may hit the wall with horrific results.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Michael Cutler is a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and a recognized authority who addresses the implications of immigration on national security and criminal justice. Feedback: editorialdirector@familysecuritymatters.org

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