Visa Policy, AKA Legal Immigration, Needs Immediate Overhaul

Published on February 28th, 2012

By Joe Guzzardi
February 20, 2012

Amine el Khalifi, the 29-year-old Moroccan national residing in the United States illegally since 1999 when his tourist visa expired, has an impressive record of avoiding detection. Twelve years is a long time to go about your daily business, in el Khalifi’s case preparing for a terrorist attack, without being rooted out by U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement whose job it is to find such people and send them packing.

But el Khalifi doesn’t hold the visa overstayer’s record. Among the leading candidates for that dubious award are President Obama’s aunt and uncle Onyango and Zeituni, the brother and sister tandem who lived in Massachusetts illegally for two decades. Auntie lived in Section 8 housing and collected other welfare benefits while Uncle had a job, a social security number and a driver’s license which enabled him to nearly crash into a police vehicle during a drunken spree.

Arrested last week just two blocks from the Capitol building where he planned to blow himself up and kill innocent bystanders in the process, el Khalifi’s criminal complaint alleged that he would shoot any law enforcement officer who blocked his entry.

The undercover agent investigating el Khalifi said that before settling on the Capitol as his target, the Moroccan had previously considered bombing a large military apartment complex, a popular D.C. restaurant or a synagogue.

Historically, terrorists easily enter the United States. The 9/11 terrorists came on temporary non-immigrant visas issued for varying purposes including tourism and college study. They never went home. DHS officials estimate that today up to 4 million foreign-born have overstayed and are at large.

One of the most interesting angles on the el Khalifi case is that he’s routinely referred to in the media and by clueless politicians as a “homegrown” terrorist. After el Khalifi’s arrest Maine’s Susan Collins, the ranking Senate Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, commented on the “spike” in homegrown terrorism cases.

And in her testimony before the same committee, Secretary Janet Napolitano disingenuously claimed that her department’s main concern is terrorist attacks that involve “legal residents and citizens.”

In other words, el Khalifi and others have spent so much time in the United States that calling them “homegrown” doesn’t strike journalists or pro-immigration advocates as a gross misrepresentation. Their inference is that these terrorists are legally in the United States or possibly even citizens. Actually they’re illegal aliens like el Khalifi who violated their visa terms.

In time, however, these terrorists could become legal residents thanks to President Obama’s prosecutorial discretion amnesty that forgives so called “non-threatening” illegal immigrants.

Most visa holders have a different profile than the alien who wades across the Rio Grande or crawls under barbed wire along the U.S.-Mexico border. Those who come through a port of entry speak English and may have professional skills that allow them to mingle undetected in mainstream society. Many of their unsuspecting friends and neighbors describe apprehended terrorists as “great guys,” a testimony to the importance of keeping them out of the country rather than trying to find them once they enter.

The el Khalifi case screams out for the need to limit the numbers of visas issued, more than 1 million per year, not only to reduce the possibility of terrorism but also to reduce over- immigration.

More than a decade has passed since the 911 Commission recommended a biometric entry-exit screening system for foreign visitors. Little progress has been made. Worse, the el Khalifi case is unlikely to push exit screening even a tiny bit forward.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. His columns have been syndicated nationally since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]

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