By Joe Guzzardi
January 22, 2016
This has been a bad week for the Department of Homeland Security, and a worse one for Americans hoping to find even a shred of evidence that the White House will enforce immigration laws any time soon. DHS admitted under pressure during a Senate Immigration subcommittee hearing that it doesn’t know the whereabouts of approximately 500,000 visa oversteers from last fiscal year. When overstays from previous years are included, the totals must “be in the millions,” observed Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley.
A DHS representative acknowledged that that the main reason his agency doesn’t know where to locate the unlawful immigrants is because it doesn’t look for the absconders. Once a visa’s expiration date expires, the holder’s status in the United States shifts from temporary, non-Immigrant to illegal alien.
DHS’ confession that it neither knows nor cares where immigration violators vanish to came during a heated Senate inquiry probe that asked why, more than a decade after Congress has passed entry-exit legislation in 2004, a tracking system is still not in place. Experts estimate that of the total 12 million illegal immigrant population, 40 percent are visa overstays. Of those overstays, 99 percent are uninvestigated and include thousands from terrorist-sponsoring countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen.
Craig Healy, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement assistant director, offered three all too familiar excuses why during the past twelve years little progress has been made. First, the agency claims it prioritizes the overstays it will pursue. Criminals or national security threats, yes; foreign nationals perceived as harmless, no. Second, space shortages at the nation’s airports make it impossible to process millions of daily travelers and, third, entry-exit would slow down international travel and create major gridlock.
But DHS’ excuses defy the facts. As for what DHS alleges as its priorities, a 2014 Immigration and Customs Enforcement report found that ICE had 722,000 encounters with criminal aliens, but filed immigration charges against less than 195,000 of them. More egregiously, in 2013, pursuant to President Obama’s prosecutorial discretion policies, ICE released 68,000 deportable criminal aliens. If the federal government won’t detain criminals, Americans can’t be expected to believe they’re serious about finding potentially dangerous overstays.
The second argument that airports don’t have adequate space to implement biometric entry-exit is nonsense. In recent years, airports have been transformed into shopping malls and food courts. Third and last, gridlock is a minor inconvenience compared to tragic terrorist attacks’ consequences. Americans are accustomed to lengthy airport delays. Arriving a few minutes earlier is small stuff when weighed against effective airport security.
Even Democrats who support Obama’s immigration agenda criticized DHS’ talking points. New York Senator Chuck Schumer called biometric entry-exit “a matter of national security.” Minnesota Senator Al Franken said: “It's hard for me to envision that we can't figure out where to get a space to do this at an airport or seaport,” especially after 12 years.
The Obama administration refuses to learn from history. The majority of the 9/11 terrorists were visa oversteers when they committed their crimes. Of the 12 al Qaeda illegal immigrant operatives living in the U.S. between 1993 and 2001, seven were visa oversteers. Acting individually, in pairs or as a group of four, they perpetrated the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, 9/11, and the 2009 New York subway bombing plot.
The efficient removal of overstays is essential to foiling terrorist attacks. Since 9/11, America’s enemies have grown more numerous, bolder, smarter and better funded. Yet, the Obama administration inexplicably ignores fundamental security measures which makes terrorists’ goal to destroy America easier to carry out.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]