By Joe Guzzardi
September 5, 2014
The shocking Department of Homeland Security announcement that it can’t find 58,000 foreign nationals who entered the United States on student visas should send chills down Americans’ backs. Of the 58,000, DHS considers 6,000 whose visas have expired but who have apparently remained in the U.S. to be subjects of interest, a frightening thought with the 9/11 anniversary so close at hand. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn said, “They get the visas, and then they just disappear.” Sen. Coburn also told ABC News that since September 11 the government has arrested 26 foreigner-born persons with student visas for terrorism-related activities.
More than 9,000 schools participate in the student visa program. Among them are 86 that teach cosmetology, 36 that give massage instruction, nine that specialize in horseshoeing and others that concentrate on acupuncture or hair braiding. And, the schools are responsible for reporting back to DHS if the students don’t show up. The problem, of course, is that they don’t. The schools collect the hefty tuition foreign-born students willingly pay, but don’t comply with the reporting requirement.
Identifying the exact whereabouts of visa overstayers has, despite 9/11, never been a priority for the federal government even though former New Jersey governor and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission recommended eliminating loopholes in the program that have never been adopted.
Peter Edge, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who oversees visa violations said that the so-called students “could be doing anything. Some of them could be here to do us harm.” Edge has plenty of reason for concern. Hani Hanjour, one of the 9/11 hijackers that crashed American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon entered the U.S. on a student visa. And in 1993 during the first World Trade Center attack, Eyad Esmoil, also got a student visa. Esmoil, who loaded a van with explosive chemicals and drove it into the WTC, dropped out after three semesters to plot to blowing up the WTC with six other terrorists including one who overstayed his tourist visa. In 2001, 48 Islamic terrorists exploited virtually every available immigration program to gain entry including obtaining tourist, business and student visas.
Despite overwhelming evidence that preposterously lax visa standards have and probably will again lead to catastrophic attacks on the nation, Capitol Hill has done nothing. The controversial comprehensive immigration reform bill passed in the Senate last year didn’t immediately address border issues, but instead promised to submit an unspecified “plan” to DHS five years down the road. No one believed that such a plan would ever materialize. The Senate not only didn’t offer tighter controls on student visas which have more than doubled in the last decade, it expanded the cap on most visa categories.
In 2002, pursuant to 9/11 Commission recommendations, DHS created the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System, a program which required visa recipients from countries that represent a security risk to register with a local ICE office. Visa holders had to account for exactly what they were doing while in the country and could only leave the country through designated ports of entry. Hence, if a terrorist arrived on a student visa, but stopped attending school, DHS would have the necessary tools to track him down. Obama ordered DHS to abolish the program in 2011.
Words that come to mind to describe the government’s consistent post-9/11 refusal to tighten up visa requirements and to monitor them after their issuance: idiotic, self-destructive, incompetent, politically correct suicide. Tragically, it seems neither the president nor Congress has learned anything from the murder and mayhem the nation suffered through in 1993 and 2001.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been nationally syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]