Immigration and the ‘War on Terror’

By Michael W. Cutler, Senior Special Agent, INS (Ret.)
Volume 21, Number 1 (Fall 2010)
Issue theme: "The menace of Islam"

Ihave come to refer to the DHS as the Department of Homeland Surrender! In order to explain the many ways that our nation is vulnerable to the unlawful entry of foreign nationals, I decided to copy the beginning of the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

We have been following the terrorist investigations and news reports about how terrorists and criminal aliens, which I prefer to refer to as transnational criminals, have an advantage over U.S. citizen criminals. This is because criminals of foreign countries who operate in our nation are able to easily evade law enforcement authorities by fleeing from our country when they suspect that they are about to be arrested and hide in their home countries — often safe from the grasp of our federal agents and police officers.

These news reports note how these individuals were able to gain access to our nation and hence endanger national security and the lives of our citizens.

As I have worked to make our fellow citizens and especially our “leaders” understand these serious vulnerabilities, I have been frustrated by our nation’s continuing failure to secure its borders and create an immigration system that has real integrity. I decided to begin this commentary with the first paragraphs of Longfellow’s poem.

“The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march

By land or sea from the town to-night,

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch

Of the North Church tower, as a signal light, —
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;

And I on the opposite shore will be,

Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Through every Middlesex village and farm,

For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

Paul Revere had it relatively easy: there were only two possibilities. The British invaders could only come by land or by sea. Today, if Mr. Revere was alive and decided to continue his now “low tech” method to communicate how illegal aliens and criminals and terrorists among them were entering the United States, he would need to have his friendplace so many lanterns in the North Church tower that it would probably burn to the ground!

Let us consider someof the many ways that illegal aliens and potentially criminals and terrorists, can gain entry into our country:

1. Running the Mexican border

2. Running the Canadian border

3. Stowing away on a ship

4. Entering the United States through a port of entryunder the auspices of theVisaWaiver Program. (This enables aliens from 36 countries to enter our country without first applying for and obtaining a nonimmigrant visa.) This is one of the key reasons that al-Qaeda is believed to be attempting to recruit citizens of Western Europe to do their “dirty work” because they would not need visas in order to seek to enter the United States, thereby making it far easier for them to gain entry to our nation.

5. Procuring a nonimmigrant tourist visa by filing a fraudulent application, concealing material facts that would have caused their applications for visas to enter the United States to be denied. (This was the tactic employed by the terrorists who attacked our nation on September 11, 2001.)

6. Entering the United States with a valid visa and then violating the terms of the visa, such as overstaying the period of time for which they were admitted. (U.S. visit is not currently able to track the departure of aliens who are admitted for a temporary period.)

7. Procuring a nonimmigrant student visa and then not attending the school for which the visa was issued — Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, the 19-year-old terror suspect who was arrested while plotting to use explosives to destroy an office building in Dallas, Texas, is an example of this method of entry and embedding in our country.

8. Applying for and receiving an immigrant visa based on a fraud marriage. (If successful, this ploy provides the alien with a “green card” and puts him (her) on the path to United States citizenship.) Nada Nadim Prouty, a woman from Lebanon who entered the United States on a student visa roughly 20 years ago, went on to commit immigration fraud and ultimately acquire United States citizenship. She parlayed her naturalization certificate into a high-level security clearance and a job at the FBI and CIA, where she used her clearance to access sensitive databases to acquire information about Hezbollah she had no “need to know.”

9. Applying for and receiving an immigrant visa based on a fraud job offer; as is the case with the marriage fraud, the alien would receive a “green card”and be placed on the path to United States citizenship.

10. Applying for political asylum by making a false claim of “credible fear.” (Mir Aimal Kansiused this ploy. In January 1993, roughly one month before the first attack on the World Trade Center, he stood outside the headquarters of the CIA in Virginia and opened fire on CIA employees who were arriving for what they had thought would be a routine day at work. Two CIA officials died and three were wounded.)

I have stopped this list on the tenth item, but there are other ways I have not listed. This is why I refer toimmigration as a “system.”

A so-called “green card,” and especially United States citizenship, represents the key to the “front door” of the United States. Each year many thousands of aliens acquire resident alien status and even United States citizenship through fraud. This is no different from the burglar who surreptitiously makes a copy of his victim’s house key. Yet while most responsible people prevent this from happening to them, our country is still not even addressing the vulnerability that has enabled criminals and especially terrorists to gain total access to our nation as an “embedding” tactic.

Consider all of the ways in which aliens violate our borders and our immigration laws. Consider as well that this remains so more than 9 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and more than 17 years after radical Islamist terrorists used immigration fraud to enter our country, embed themselves in our country, and attack the CIA in January of 1993 as well as the World Trade Center just one month later. The CIA attack was carried out by a citizen of Pakistan, Mir Kansi, who acquired political asylum by lying on his application and then, on that winter morning in January of 1993, stood outside CIA Headquarters with an AK-47 and opened fire on the cars being driven into the CIA parking lot by employees reporting for duty. When the shooting stopped, two CIA officials were dead and three were wounded.

The World Trade Center was bombed in February 1993 by a team of radical Muslims that caused the death of 6 victims who died simply because they were at the “wrong place at the wrong time.” Additionally, hundreds of others were injured and an estimated half billion dollars in damages were inflicted on that jewel of the lower Manhattan skyline. In fact, the tower that was attacked nearly toppled over. Had that happened, it is entirely likely that the death toll would have been in the tens of thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands! It is possible that lower Manhattan would still be uninhabitable, given that the sea wall that kept the Hudson River out of the foundation of the World Trade Center site might well have ruptured as that 110 story tall tower toppled sideways into other buildings in a fashion not unlike cascading dominos.

Here is my testimony at a Congressional hearing conducted by the House Judiciary Committee on September 1, 2006, which addressed the national security dangers in the implementation of “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” which would provide ample opportunities for terrorists to enter our country and embed themselves in our country:

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 its 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 in 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 19 terrorists who so savagely attacked our nation on September 11, 2001, all entered our country via the inspections process and then, in one way or another, violated the terms of their admission. Our nation’s leaders know that this represents a major vulnerability. While there is no way of knowing with certainty, the government estimates that some 5 million aliens currently present in the United States in violation of law were admitted into the United States via the inspections process and then either overstayed the amount of time they were granted when they were admitted, sought illegal work, failed to show up for a job they were admitted to do, or failed to attend school. I believe the number is actually far higher, but even after spending more than one billion dollars, the program known as US-VISIT that is supposed to track the arrival and departure of nonimmigrant aliens is still not fully implemented. (The 9/11 Commission made it clear that this program had major national security implications!)

This is why I have often made the point that any state that has a seaport or international airport is a “Border State.”

At present, according to a recent news report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has just 272 special agents seeking to locate and arrest the estimated 5 million visa violators!

Even with all of this information being available to our nation’s citizens and especially our nation’s leaders, members of the administration and members of Congress continue to attempt to create a “pathway to United States citizenship” for unknown millions, perhaps tens of millions of illegal aliens whose true identities are unknown and unknowable. There would be no easy way of determining the true names of these individuals who circumvented the inspections process. There would be no way of even being certain about their true nationalities. Consequently there would be no way of knowing if they have criminal histories in other countries. There would be no way of knowing if they are affiliated with criminal or terrorist organizations. Providing aliens who violate our nation’s borders and other laws in conjunction with this would, in essence, be that running our borders is a prerequisite for being granted United States citizenship!

What must also be remembered is the importance of the inspections process they avoid by running our borders. The inspections process is something I am quite familiar with, having begun my career with the former INS back in 1971 as an Immigration Inspector assigned to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

If you consider the categories of aliens whose presence is to be prevented because they are deemed “excludable,” you quickly realize that the process is not a formality although our own government clearly seeks to make a mockery of it.

Among those classes of aliens who are supposed to be prevented from entering our country are aliens who have dangerous communicable diseases, aliens who are convicted felons, aliens who suffer from serious mental illness and are prone towards violence, aliens who are war criminals, aliens who have committed human rights violations, aliens who are human traffickers, aliens who are drug smugglers, aliens who have been previously deported, aliens who are engaged in espionage or terrorism.

That was just a partial list, and in reviewing it, I believe that no sane person would want aliens who fall into any of those categories to be wandering our nation’s streets or would want to live next door to them! When an alien runs our borders to avoid that inspections process there is absolutely no way of knowing if that person is simply seeking illegal employment or has something more sinister to conceal!

We have been told by a succession of leaders that if we simply let aliens in who just want to work, then law enforcement could deal with the terrorists. In point of fact, the day before a terrorist engages in a terrorist attack, he (she) is likely to go to his job where he has been hiding in plain sight for the past several months or even years!

While the citizens of our nation have come to witness a continual erosion of their expectation of privacy and freedom in the name of national security, our government refuses to effectively address the issues of our nation’s porous borders and an immigration system that has no integrity.

About the author

Michael W. Cutler is a retired Senior Special Agent with the INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service).  He appears regularly on numerous radio and television
programs, including Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. He hosts his own internet radio program,”Bordering on Insanity.” Mr. Cutler has testified as an expert witness
at more than a dozen Congressional hearings. Visit his website at: