Damning testimony last month from the Homeland Security Department inspector general cast profound doubts on the United States’ ability to protect its citizens from visa fraud that terrorists and sex traffickers use to perpetrate their crimes.
In his written statement to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, DHS Inspector General John Roth’s findings should put Congress on high alert that the numerous visas that allow foreign nationals to enter the United States legally are perhaps more dangerous the porous border.
First, OIG investigators found that work and fiancé visas are the predominant method human hijackers use to bring their victims to the United States.
About 53 percent of trafficking cases OIG identified used nonimmigrant work visas or K-1 fiancé visas. The remaining 47 percent either entered illegally or illegally overstayed their visas.
Tasfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino terrorists, came to California on a fiancé visa.
Second, another significant failure OIG exposed was that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not effectively managed its Visa Security Program that should, but does not, adequately screen or vet overseas’ visa applicants.
ICE told OIG that it had a complete “lack of confidence in the value of the current performance measures” that would protect Americans from potential international security threats.
Third, although the White House often defends many of the visas on the basis that they contribute to the economy, specifically the H-1B and the EB-5, OIG found little evidence to support that claim.
According to Roth, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services can’t demonstrate the tangible benefits of foreign EB-5 investment in the U.S. economy or the investors’ funding sources. Even if federal immigration authorities uncover fraud or national security concerns, visas are rarely evoked.
Finally, Roth wrote that ICE and USCIS, agencies within DHS, do not promptly share information that could improve security.
During the same testimony, ICE Director Sarah Saldaña acknowledged that USCIS officers initially refused to grant DHS investigators access to suspect Enrique Marquez to arrest him for providing weapons to the San Bernardino terrorists, Malik and her husband, Syek Farook.
Roth addressed other major visa risks before alarmingly concluding that the current immigration system presents risks to our national security because the United States may be admitting individuals determined to do harm or who do not meet visa requirements the requirements.
Basic information on visa applicants isn’t captured on electronic format and therefore can’t be used to root out the dangerous or to match data ICE and USCIS collect separately.
Add Roth’s testimony to that made last month by National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd who told Congress that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have been told to release illegal immigrants into the general public without issuing them order to appear letters.
Even when agents handed out those orders that required an immigration court appearance, they were widely disregarded, which led to CPB jokingly referring to them as “run letters.”
“We might as well abolish our immigration laws altogether,” Judd said.
FBI Director James Comey confirmed that ISIS investigations are ongoing in all 50 states and has insisted that it’s impossible to vet refugees from terrorist sponsoring states, specifically Iraq and Syria. President Barack Obama is committed to resettling 10,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees here in 2016.
Whether potential terrorists abuse U.S. visas, enter illegally across the southern border or arrive because of a presidential mandate, Obama seems alarmingly unconcerned about American safety, but determined to fulfill his political agenda to transform America at any cost.
— Joe Guzzardi is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.