Illegal Immigration and Terrorism
by MICHAEL CUTLER
December 23, 2010
I first heard the news report about the threat that al Qaeda might attempt to have their operatives poison foods in restaurants and hotels yesterday morning when I was listening to the local CBS Radio station in New York City.
That is certainly not the way you want to start your day!
Fox News has been airing news reports about the potential that al Qaeda might attempt to have their terrorists carry out attacks on our soil by poisoning the food at restaurants and hotels.
Here is part of a press release issued by DHS about this threat:
What is missing from the discussion about the threat of terrorism and what is missing from the strategy of our government to protect our nation and our citizens from the threat of terrorism and transnational criminals either, is the way that the immigration laws could and should be brought to bear to help prevent the entry of terrorists into our country and to prevent them from easily embedding themselves in our country as they prepare to attack us.
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.
Congress gave the Commission the mandate to study, evaluate, and report on “immigration, nonimmigrant visas and border security” as these areas relate to the events of 9/11. This staff report represents 14 months of such research. It is based on thousands of pages of documents we reviewed from the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, approximately 25 briefings on various border security topics, and more than 200 interviews. We are grateful to all who assisted and supported us along the way.
The story begins with “A Factual Overview of the September 11 Border Story.” This introduction summarizes many of the key facts of the hijackers’ entry into the United States. In it, we endeavor to dispel the myth that their entry into the United States was “clean and legal.” It was not. Three hijackers carried passports with indicators of Islamic extremism linked to al Qaeda; two others carried passports manipulated in a fraudulent manner. It is likely that several more hijackers carried passports with similar fraudulent manipulation. Two hijackers lied on their visa applications. Once in the United States, two hijackers violated the terms of their visas. One overstayed his visa. And all but one obtained some form of state identification. We know that six of the hijackers used these state issued identifications to check in for their flights on September 11. Three of them were fraudulently obtained.
Here is the link to that report in its entirety.
Throughout this report and the 9/11 Commission Report itself, there are demonstrated links involving immigration laws, the visa issuing process and other laws and components of the immigration system that deal with the entry of alien terrorists into our country and their ability to acquire lawful status as an embedding tactic.
Yet time and time again we have heard our nation's leaders tell us that immigration has nothing to do with the "War on Terror!"
Immigration fraud and visa fraud are all but ignored by our government even though such fraud runs rampantly throughout the immigration system and creates a huge threat to national security. The Visa Waiver Program which enables aliens to enter our country without first applying for visas in order to seek entry into the United States continues to be expanded even though the visa issuing process, if properly implemented can add an effective additional layer of security for our nation and also help keep terrorists from gaining access to airliners.
To provide you with a particularly egregious example of how superficially visa fraud it pursued, consider that on October 14th of this year, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issued a press release touting the prosecution of a Brazilian couple that had amassed at least 55 million dollars by running a visa fraud scheme that enabled over one thousand aliens to secure visas in order to enter the United States so that they could get jobs in some 190 hotels across our nation.
I wrote a commentary about this case and I have provided you with segments of that commentary below. I want you to make certain that you pay attention to the fact that the many illegal aliens who were able to enter the United States by committing fraud are apparently not being sought by ICE!
Admittedly the potential that any of these illegal aliens are engaged in terrorism is small but the point is that the government admits that there are about 5 million such illegal aliens who are present in our country today who did not run our borders but violated the terms of their admission. I have heard from sources that there may actually be twice as many illegal aliens in our country today who violated the terms of their admission. Yet there are reportedly only 272 special agents of ICE who are assigned to attempt to locate and apprehend these millions of illegal aliens! You must also remember that the terrorists who attacked our nation on September 11, 2001 and that other terrorists who have entered our country in order to participate in various terrorist related activities were also visa violators!
I am certainly glad that the fraud ring involving this Brazilian couple (pictured) and their adult son was dismantled, however, check out the jail sentences that were imposed on this couple as noted in the press release:
Wilson, 63, and Valeria Barbugli, 57, were sentenced to 18 and 24 months in federal prison, respectively, by U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven, Middle District of Florida.
They were sentenced to less than a day in jail for every 2 or 3 aliens they smuggled into the United States! In fact, the woman actually got more time because she was engaged in money laundering!
If the crime of alien smuggling is a serious crime- and certainly it is, what message does these meager sentences send to alien smugglers? Smuggle more than one thousand aliens into our country by entering into a sophisticated fraud conspiracy scheme and be sentenced to 18 months in prison?
Consider this quote from the press release that addresses how serious the crime of conspiring to commit visa fraud is:
"These individuals orchestrated a large-scale visa fraud ring and knowingly employed foreign nationals not authorized to work in the United States, compromising our nation's immigration system and putting our communities at risk," said ICE Director John Morton.
"Visa fraud presents a vulnerability that could be exploited by dangerous criminals or even terrorists. That is why ICE will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who attempt to exploit these systems pay the price for their crimes."
I have to agree with John Morton when he talks about the seriousness of visa fraud. I have testified before a number of Congressional hearings about this very issue and, indeed, it was the topic of my very first Congressional hearing back in May of 1997 when I was asked to participate into a hearing on visa fraud and immigration benefit fraud in the wake of the terrorist attacks carried out in our country in 1993.
On May 18, 2004 I was called to testify before a hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims by the then Ranking Minority Member, Sheila Jackson Lee. The topic of the hearing was: "Pushing the border out on alien smuggling: New tools and intelligence initiatives"
I made the point at this hearing that in considering smuggling, visa fraud should be seen as a smuggling tactic, just as running our nation's borders or stowing away on ships and other conveyances entering the United States are considered methods of alien smuggling.
This is why I have consistently made the point that any state that has an international airport or a seaport is a border state!
Now here is the real question that the press release does not even address- where are the more than one thousand smuggled aliens right now?
According to recent news reports, ICE has fewer than 300 special agents seeking to locate and apprehend the estimated 5 million of more visa violators to be found throughout our country!
I was recently interviewed by Casey Wian of CNN about the issue of the lack of resources dedicated to seeking to track down visa violators. Below is a video in which I make a very brief appearance:
Does anyone in our government know? Does anyone in our government care? Were these aliens among those I discussed yesterday whose removal (deportation) hearings have been terminated because they don't have criminal convictions?
While we are on the topic of criminal convictions- were any of these smuggled aliens criminally charged with entering into a criminal conspiracy with the couple whose sentences amounted to a bit of wrist slapping? If the smugglers were charged with conspiracy, they had to be conspiring with the aliens they assisted to enter the United States by lying on their applications for visas. Why is there no mention of any of the smuggled aliens being indicted for their roles in the conspiracy that enabled them to enter our nation?
The United States State Department has a website that lays out a thumbnail explanation of visa fraud and passport fraud that can be found at this website:
Here is the portion of the material to be found on that website that addresses visa fraud:
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
Stop and give some thought to the fact that the penalty for visa fraud committed by a single alien is supposed to be a maximum of ten years in prison if the alien has not committed other crimes as a result of the fraud, fifteen years if criminal activities are involved, twenty years if the crimes involved include drug trafficking and twenty-five years if the fraud was committed in conjunction with terrorism!
Yet the smugglers who have been found guilty of bringing more than one thousand illegal aliens into our country were sentenced to 18 months and 24 months of incarceration and no mention was even made of the aliens who were smuggled!
I would love to know the nationalities of the smuggled aliens. I would love to know what efforts have been made to locate them and to determine whether or not any of them may have had links to criminal or terrorist organizations. Please consider one more factor:
The "Tri-Border" region of Brazil has been identified as an area where terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah have been operating and training operatives. It is entirely possible members of al-Qaeda are also active in this region of Brazil.
I want you to remember that the defendants in this case are citizens of Brazil.
We have been hearing a barrage of news reports on television and in newspapers about how al-Qaeda is gearing up to launch Mumbai-style attacks in Europe and possibly the United States. If you recall, the attacks at Mumbai involved hotels getting attacked by machine gun wielding terrorists operating as commandos, raking the guests at hotels with gunfire and explosives to maximize casualties. If I was a terrorist leader I would certainly want to install my operatives in hotels I had designated as targets for an attack, to scope out the locations and to bring weapons and other munitions into the hotels before the attack.
While I believe the likelihood that this is a component of this case is extremely slim- I would not be willing to stake my life or the lives of innocent people on the "likelihood" that this is not a factor in this wide ranging fraud scheme involving more than one thousand illegal aliens. Has anyone at DHS, the Department of Homeland Surrender even given this possibility any thought?
As I noted when Secretary of Homeland Surrender Janet Napolitano states that the system worked when a terrorist failed to detonate a bomb in an airliner preparing to land in Detroit last Christmas Day- "If hope is not a strategy, then dumb luck is not a success!"
It is worth noting that 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 this link.
In some instances the fraud that was committed by aliens enabled terrorists to enter our country and/or embed themselves in our country.
Below is an excerpt from one of my previous commentaries about citizen of Eritrea by the name of Samuel Abrahaley Fessahazion, aka "Sami," aka "Sammy," aka "Alex" and aka "Alex Williams."
He had been granted political asylum even though he had lied on his application and committed fraud, claiming that his life would be in immediate danger if he was forced to return to Eritrea. His application was approved in under one month. It was subsequently determined that when he claimed he was running for his life in Eritrea he was actually smuggling aliens from Africa through Guatemala!
In the excerpt from my commentary about Mr. Fessahazion I noted how terrorists have previously gamed the immigration system with great ease:
In January 1993 a Pakistani national by the name of Mir Kansi stood outside CIA Headquarters with an AK-47 and opened fire on the vehicles of CIA officials reporting for work on that cold January morning in Virginia. When the smoke dissipated, 2 CIA officer lay dead and three other were seriously wounded. Kansi fled the United States and was ultimately brought back to stand trial. He was found guilty and executed for his crimes. He had also been granted political asylum and had been subsequently found to have lied on his application, thereby committing fraud.
Of 94 terrorists who were identified as operating in our country in the decade leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some 59 or roughly two thirds of them were found to have committed immigration fraud to enter our country and/or embed themselves in our country. Yet Fessahazion, an illegal aliens with an apparent penchant for using false names, ran our nation's border, claimed political asylum and was then rewarded by being granted political asylum and, in so doing was potentially placed on the pathway to United States citizenship!
Yet another sterling example of the competence of USCIS!
Our government has certainly not done anything to truly address this lunacy. Consider, for example, that on Novermber 29, 2006 the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Citizenship Agency Lost 111,000 Files.”
Incredibly the applications that related to those 111,000 files were all processed without the relating immigration files including the 30,000 aliens who were naturalized by adjudications officers who were not provided with the critically important immigration files relating to the aliens who applied for United States citizenship. This travesty took place more than 13 years after Kansi gamed the system to acquire political asylum and opened fire of CIA officers. Just one month later other terrorists from the Middle East who launched the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 and had also committed visa fraud and immigration fraud in order to facilitate their plans to attack our nation and kill our citizens. Those 111,000 files were lost and the application adjudicated more than five years after the Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Yet the system has never possessed integrity and still possesses no integrity!
Let me briefly tell you about one of the illegal aliens that Amnesty of 1986 brought out of the “shadows.” His name is Mahmud Abouhalima.
On September 1, 2006 I was invited to testify before a field hearing conducted by the House Judiciary Committee at Dubuque, Iowa. The topic of that hearing was: “Is the Reid-Kennedy Bill a repeat of the failed Amnesty Act of 1986?”
When I testified at that hearing I raised Mr. Abouhalima’s name. Here is an excerpt of what I had to say at that hearing:
“....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.”
The point is that the only thing that Mr. Abouhalima ever planted in the United States was a bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center with deadly consequences.
Yet the advocates for the DREAM Act that was narrowly defeated this past weekend, didn't give a damn about the national security implications that the processing of unknown millions of applications for amnesty would have had!
The lack of integrity in the system by which applications for immigration benefits are processed has been the focus of numerous GAO (Government Accountability Office as well as the OIG (Office of the Inspector General).
If reading this makes it difficult for you to sleep tonight- perhaps you could do something worthwhile- perhaps you might spend a couple of your sleepless hours writing letters to your elected representatives this evening and remind them of the oaths of office they took when they were sworn!
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. His website can be read here. Each Friday evening from 7 till 9 pm EDT, he co-hosts a radio show called “Bordering on Insanity” on RePatriot Radio. The audience call-in numbers are: 940-825-1041 and 940-825-1042.