I received the disturbing news report from many of my friends and I feel compelled to forward it to you because it is illustrative of a point I have been making ever since I decided to make my concerns about the many failures of our government to not only secure our nation’s borders but to make certain that there is meaningful integrity to the entire immigration system.
The news report appeared on the CNS News website yesterday, April 29th and was written by Edwin Mora. It was such an incredible report that many other online news reports and blogs were quick to forward it. The news report focused on a recently released GAO report that dealt with a number of issues including the fact that three aliens had been naturalized during the past two years, who had criminal convictions that resulted from information discovered during the course of terrorism-related investigations. The GAO report’s primary focus was on the incarceration and arrest of aliens involved in crimes. Here is a link to that GAO report:
Criminal Alien Statistics: Information on Incarcerations, Arrests and Costs
As you probably know, I have often debated proponents for amnesty for illegal aliens in a variety of venues. Often those who oppose my position on the need for secure borders and the need to instill integrity into the immigration system claim that “undocumented immigrants” (there term for illegal aliens) don’t commit crimes! I think that the GAO report will, once again, provide clear and unequivocal evidence that a significant number of illegal aliens do, indeed, commit felonies in our country that costs us in terms of the harm done to the victims of these crimes and then cost all of us in terms of the costs associated with the expenses run up by the criminal justice system in dealing with these criminal aliens after they commit crimes. This is why it would certainly be extremely cost effective to secure our borders and to have cooperation from local and state police organizations in working cooperatively with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to create a meaningful deterrence against illegal immigration in general and against transnational criminals and those affiliated with terrorist organizations in particular.
In considering the fact that criminal aliens were naturalized- especially the three who had been identified pursuant to terrorism investigations, you must first give serious thought to the fact that the agency of the DHS that adjudicates all applications for various immigration benefits is USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). This is the very same agency that would be called upon to administer any sort of massive amnesty program that the administration may call for whether it was the deceptively named “DREAM Act” or “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” a program I have come to refer to as the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act!”
Clearly this inept, incompetent and overwhelmed agency cannot deal with its workload now. Imagine what would happen if unknown millions- perhaps tens of millions of applications for immigration benefits filed by aliens who haven’t a shred of reliable documentation to attest to their true identities or even their countries of citizenship were suddenly dumped onto the desks of those beleaguered bureaucrats! That entire bureaucracy would absolutely implode! Meanwhile God knows how many terrorists or criminals would easily acquire lawful status and even United States citizenship!
To date, there have been a succession of reports of how terrorists and criminals were able to acquire lawful status in our country and then go on to not only become resident aliens but United States citizens.
Here is something about how naturalization works that I am willing to bet you did not know- When an alien is sworn in as a new citizen of our country, he or she may decide to change his name at the time of naturalization. When such a newly minted United States citizen applies for and receives his United States passport- that passport will only reflect the new name that the naturalized citizen has taken. This means that if, for argument sake, there is a screw up and a person whose original name was on a terror watch list or, perhaps, a “No Fly” list- by acquiring United States citizenship under a new name that person will have, for all intents and purposes, created a brand new identity for himself!
I testified about this vulnerability when I appeared before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on May 5, 2005. The topic for that hearing was:
“NEW ‘DUAL MISSIONS’ OF THE IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES”
Here is a link to the transcript of that hearing:
Here is an excerpt from that hearing that addresses my concerns about this situation that I raised when I was asked a question by Ranking Member Steve King:
Mr. KING: What do you think about the effect of eliminating the Federal deductibility for wages and benefits paid to illegals if we have a safe harbor for the instant check program on the I-9 information and sent the IRS in to do an audit and be able to collect the taxes that would be due on that Schedule C line item as well as the interest and the penalty?
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Mr. KING: Could I ask unanimous consent to allow Mr. Cutler to answer that question?
Mr. HOSTETTLER: Without objection.
Mr. CUTLER: I agree with what you want to do with the tax law. I think it’s a great idea. Again, and I hate to keep harping on it, that is why fraud is so critical because the Gordian knot that would enable an alien to circumvent all of this is to get a green card based on a fraudulent marriage, for argument’s sake. Then he could work and the employer doesn’t have a problem and he is here and hiding in plain sight. That is why we need to see all of these issues addressed properly.
I never heard anyone talk much about immigration benefit fraud. The GAO in 2002, February, 2002 issued a report that said it was rampant and pervasive, and that is how the bad guys get to hide in plain sight. There are simple solutions to some of these problems. I don’t know if you realize this, but when an alien naturalizes he or she can take any name on the day of naturalization that he wants.
If we didn’t know that, for example, Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, he could naturalize and say, you know, John Smith is a great American name. I want to be known as John Smith. From that day forward he becomes John Smith and his U.S. passport will only have the name John Smith on it. If he is wanted in Germany for mass murder or France for mass murder, he walks in with a U.S. passport that says he is John Smith, he will be able to slip right through.
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We need to look at that and say if we naturalize somebody we need to put all of the names that that person was known by on their passport. If an alien applies for a benefit from Immigration, they should fill out a questionnaire just like they do when they become a resident. Have you ever been arrested or have you ever committed a crime, have you ever trafficked in drugs, have you ever contributed money to a terrorist organization? If they say yes, they are deportable. If they say no and it can be proved they have lied, you can prosecute them.
This doesn’t cost anything. We need to get smart in what we are doing. Not only a matter of money, but a matter of strategy. Strategy will take leadership and take people at the top who understand how the law can be used effectively and then we can really help to make America a much safer country.
Here we are six years after that hearing and the issue of how U.S. passports do not reflect the original names of naturalized citizens has still not been addressed!
This not only threatens the safety and security of our nation but the safety and security of people all over the world! The lack of integrity to be found at USCIS creates nightmare possibilities for our allies as well as for ourselves and yet, nothing has been done to fix this disastrous component of national security! This is just one more reason I refer to DHS as the Department of Homeland Surrender!
Many times the focus of the immigration debate has been on our nation’s southern border. Certainly the violence to be found along the southern border is extremely worrisome but the southern border is not the immigration system- it is just an important component of what should be a coherent immigration system. Many folks I have encountered have told me that if E-Verify was made mandatory and if we could deprive illegal aliens employment in the United States that the immigration crisis would be solved. Actually I agree that E-Verify should be mandatory throughout our country. Certainly much more needs to be done to make it far more difficult for illegal aliens to secure jobs in America- but this will also not end the immigration crisis.
The issue that is almost never addressed is the utter lack of integrity in the immigration benefits program that is administered by USCIS. The lack of integrity to the immigration benefits program provides aliens with lawful immigrant status and even United States citizenship. An alien who has been issued a Green Card (Alien Registration Receipt Card) has no fear of ICE auditing the records of the companies that they work for- they are entitled, under the color of law, to hold any job in America that they are qualified to do. When an alien is able to game this system, they are handed the “keys to the kingdom” and all the efforts in the world to prevent the hiring of illegal aliens will have no impact on these lawful immigrants and naturalized United States citizens!
If efforts to enforce employer sanctions provisions of the immigration laws are ramped up, the pressure on USCIS will be increased as aliens seek to acquire Green Cards by whatever means they can- including defrauding the system. While the politicians such Sen. Schumer, Sen. McCain and the other “usual suspects” claim that when the border is secure- something that I assure you will never really happen with the current crop of “leaders” in our government- that the real issue is the utter lack of integrity within the agency that would administer this ill-conceived program!
Unlike many other countries, the United States of America makes no distinction between citizens who acquired their citizenship through birth versus the naturalization process other than to require that the President an d the Vice President of the United States must be natural born United States citizens at birth. Naturalized citizens have risen to high levels within our government and, in fact, governors and high ranking members of our military as well as members of the Presidential cabinet have been naturalized citizens.
While the news report I have provided below discusses how three individuals had come to be investigated pursuant to a terrorism investigation had ultimately become United States citizens even though they had been convicted of serious crimes that were identified as a result of terrorism investigations, there have been many more terrorists and criminals who managed to become United States citizens in spite of criminal histories and involvement in terrorist activities. Immigration fraud, in fact, has been identified by no less an authority than the 9/11 Commission which noted that immigration fraud was used as an embedding tactic of terrorists that were identified as operating in the United States.
The lack of integrity to the naturalization process is a long standing crisis that threatens national security and the lives of everyone who lives in the United States!
In the 1990’s the Clinton administration implemented a program that was known as “Citizenship USA” or simply “CUSA.” CUSA was administered out of the office of then INS Commissioner Doris Meissner apparently at the behest of Vice President Gore with disastrous results. Here is a link to the OIG report that detailed this fiasco:
Here is how this extensive report begins:
I.The Implementation of CUSA: an Overview
Citizenship USA was a major initiative of INS in fiscal year 1996 to reduce its backlog of pending naturalization applications. In this chapter, we discuss the factors that led INS to implement CUSA and the strategies it used to meet the program’s ambitious goals. We also describe the production pressures that characterized the program late in the fiscal year and negatively affected the quality of naturalization adjudications as described in greater detail in subsequent chapters of this report.
A. A summary of the design of CUSA
Commissioner Doris Meissner came to INS in the fall of 1993 committed to promoting citizenship, including working to increase the number of persons who applied for naturalization. She believed that increasing the number of naturalization applicants was tantamount to increasing the number of people who had a positive experience with INS and that improved public relations would ultimately enhance the reputation of INS.1
Early in her tenure, the Commissioner began to plan a major naturalization initiative for fiscal year 1995, a primary component of which would be to encourage eligible permanent residents to apply for citizenship. However, she had failed to take into consideration that in the fiscal year before she became Commissioner (and continuing into 1993-1994, the time during which she was planning this initiative), people had begun to apply for naturalization in record numbers and INS was not keeping up with the workload. By mid-March 1995, when INS Headquarters realized that the naturalization program could not withstand an increase in applications, the rising tide of applications and the corresponding backlog had reached alarming levels.
Here is the link Department of Justice OIG report on the findings of the Office of the Inspector General that details just how screwed up this important process was:
Here is the introduction to this report (It is lengthy but I want you to take the time to read it and understand just how screwed up the process was):
Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page
Return to CUSA Report Table of Contents
The purpose of this first chapter is to provide the reader with the necessary background information to facilitate reading the remainder of the report. We cover five important topics in this chapter: a summary of the allegations, a description of our investigation, a description of the report, INS’ structure and management, and a brief description of the naturalization process.
Themes of the allegations
On August 31, 1995, INS announced its Citizenship USA (CUSA) program, an initiative for fiscal year 1996 designed to reduce the growing backlog of naturalization applications to the point where an eligible applicant would be naturalized within six months of application. Although CUSA was initially welcomed by Members of Congress as an appropriate response to the substantial INS workload, concerns about the initiative’s effect on processing integrity and concerns about its motives began to surface in the summer of 1996. In the wake of media reports suggesting that INS was compromising the integrity of the naturalization process to pursue politically motivated objectives, Members of congressional oversight committees made inquiries into the CUSA initiative. These inquiries culminated in a series of hearings in 1996 and 1997 that focused on naturalization testing fraud, breakdowns in the criminal history checking procedures, adjudicative irregularities, and political pressures.
The issues raised by Members of Congress had two common themes. The first was the sacrifice of processing integrity in order to meet high production goals. For example, in his opening statement at the CUSA hearings of September 10 and 24, 1996, before the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight’s Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice (hereinafter Subcommittee), Committee Chairman William Clinger stated, “[a]t issue here is the degree to which the quality of the INS’ work is being willfully compromised, and I think there is evidence that would substantiate that it has been willfully compromised for the sake of quantity.” Similarly, Subcommittee Chairman William H. Zeliff, Jr., who was not present for the hearings but had written to Subcommittee Members in anticipation of the September 24 hearing, asserted that “with so much water being pumped through the pipeline, figuratively, it is not surprising that the pipeline is bursting in many places.”
The second theme of the congressional concern about CUSA was that these compromises in processing integrity resulted from political pressures or politically motivated objectives. Subcommittee Member Mark Souder, who presided over the first CUSA hearings before the Subcommittee in the absence of Subcommittee Chairman Zeliff, stated in his opening remarks at the September 24 hearing, “[d]isturbingly, the evidence suggests that the naturalization push may have resulted from direct orders of the White House to naturalize new citizens [in order] to register them as Democratic voters for the upcoming elections.”
Specific allegations that emerged in late spring and early summer 1996
As noted above, INS’ implementation of a program to address the increasingly severe backlog of naturalization applications was initially perceived as an appropriate response to a workload crisis. Several months into the CUSA program, Members of Congress expressed satisfaction that INS was recognizing the need to address the backlog by hiring temporary employees to help process cases in INS’ five busiest districts, dubbed the “Key Cities” for the CUSA initiative.1 A few months later, however, that approbation yielded to concerns that INS was applying lenient naturalization criteria in order to maximize the number of new citizens before the November 1996 presidential election. Citing a May 20, 1996, the Washington Times article alleging that political motives were compromising the naturalization process, Congressman Souder questioned INS in a letter dated June 10, 1996, about the basis for selecting the targeted cities as the Key Cities for the backlog reduction effort, changes in naturalization criteria, and exhortations to new citizens to vote.
Over the next few months, the allegations about CUSA multiplied and the pursuit of information about the program by Congress intensified. In July, Subcommittee Chairman Zeliff reiterated congressional concern that CUSA was politically motivated and compromised the naturalization process. In a letter to Commissioner Meissner dated July 9, 1996, he raised a number of allegations about CUSA, including the use of inexperienced INS personnel to adjudicate applications, the delegation of processing and testing to outside groups biased in favor of approval, lowered testing requirements, and efforts to increase voting by new citizens. In part dissatisfied with INS’ original response to his July request for information, Chairman Zeliff again wrote to Commissioner Meissner on August 15, 1996, insisting that INS produce the previously requested information and requesting additional information on a wider range of topics than he had previously, from citizenship statistics to INS contacts with the Office of the Vice President.
In September 1996, following its review of approximately 30,000 pages of documents submitted by INS, the Subcommittee held two hearings concerning CUSA, one on September 10 and the other on September 24. The first hearing focused on naturalization testing fraud. This issue had become the subject of particular concern with the airing of an expose on ABC’s 20/20 in July that detailed fraudulent practices by Naturalization Assistance Services, Inc. (NAS), one of the outside contractors authorized by INS to conduct English and Civics testing of applicants on its behalf. The hearing focused generally on the concern that outside testing entities were plagued by fraud and abusive practices.
The second hearing on September 24 focused more broadly on the overall naturalization process during CUSA. The Subcommittee explored allegations that INS failed to wait for the results of criminal history checks before approving applications for naturalization, failed to train new adjudicators adequately, pressured adjudicators to process cases too quickly or simply to ignore disqualifying evidence and approve cases, and encouraged or facilitated voter registration for newly-naturalized citizens.
Additional hearings during which facets of the CUSA program were examined were held before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration on October 9 and 22, 1996, and May 1, 1997; the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies on April 10, 1997; the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Departments of Commerce, Justice and State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies on March 4, 1997; the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice on March 5, 1997; and the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims on April 30, 1997. These hearings continued to focus attention on testing, criminal history checks, and political influence and motivation during CUSA.
Overall, the allegations spanned a wide spectrum, from a lack of rigor in the adjudications process (“there are allegations that because of, in our feeling, a somewhat unrealistic goal driven by political considerations that there has been a sloppiness in the . . .process”2) to a willful sacrifice of standards to political ends (“INS has taken direction from the Vice President’s Office to quadruple the average number of naturalized citizens to 1.3 million over the past year, including direction to waive longstanding laws and regulations”3). Beyond these allegations, there were allegations by Members of Congress, by persons testifying before Congress and by others that INS had selected the Key Cities to maximize benefit to Democratic candidates in the 1996 election, had actively solicited more than half of the total applicants naturalized, had stripped resources from enforcement functions, and had not subjected new adjudicators to security clearances.
At the request of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice’s Justice Management Division (JMD) assisted INS in responding to congressional questions and a congressional subpoena concerning the naturalization of persons with disqualifying criminal records and for whom no fingerprint check was conducted. JMD, in turn, hired KPMG Peat Marwick LLP, an independent consulting firm, to “oversee and validate” INS’ review of all approved and completed naturalization cases from fiscal year 1996.
By February 1997, the KPMG-supervised review had preliminarily identified 71,557 (or 7 percent) of the 1,049,872 persons believed to have been naturalized during CUSA as having a record of either INS administrative action (like deportation) or criminal activity. The review also found that 113,126 naturalized applicants (11 percent of the total number of persons naturalized) had not had complete criminal history checks conducted because their fingerprint cards were returned to INS by the FBI as “unclassifiable” and new cards had not been resubmitted. Finally, for an additional 66,398 applicants (6 percent of the total number of persons naturalized), FBI had no record of any criminal history check having been requested or conducted by the FBI.4 These findings raised further questions about the integrity of INS’ criminal history review process and about the objectives of the CUSA program generally. Congressman J. Dennis Hastert, then the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice, asked at the March 5, 1997, hearing, “what happened that permitted 180,000 applicants to be naturalized without background checks at all?”
Please re-read this outrageous statement I have copied below that appears in the above paragraph:
By February 1997, the KPMG-supervised review had preliminarily identified 71,557 (or 7 percent) of the 1,049,872 persons believed to have been naturalized during CUSA as having a record of either INS administrative action (like deportation) or criminal activity. The review also found that 113,126 naturalized applicants (11 percent of the total number of persons naturalized) had not had complete criminal history checks conducted because their fingerprint cards were returned to INS by the FBI as “unclassifiable” and new cards had not been resubmitted. Finally, for an additional 66,398 applicants (6 percent of the total number of persons naturalized), FBI had no record of any criminal history check having been requested or conducted by the FBI.4This is the way that the INS had come to conduct “business as usual” even though it was obvious that the two terrorist attacks of 1993 had been made possible when aliens from Middle Eastern countries were able to easily game the visa issuing process and the immigration benefits program. In fact, the very first time I was invited to provide testimony before a Congressional hearing was when then House Immigration Committee, Lamar Smith and then Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Henry Hyde, invited me to testify before a hearing convened by the Immigration Subcommittee conducted on May 20, 1997 on the topic:
“VISA FRAUD AND IMMIGRATION BENEFITS APPLICATION FRAUD”
You can review the transcript of that hearing, in its entirety at:
This hearing was, in large measure called because the terrorists who participated in two terrorist attacks in 1993- first at the CIA in January of that year and then at the World Trade Center the following month, were all foreign nationals (aliens) who had gamed the visa and/or the immigration benefits programs in order to enter the United States and embed themselves in our country in order to be able to carry out those attacks.
The way that the former INS adjudicated applications for various immigration benefits continued to make it clear that there was absolutely no integrity to the process. It was determined that two of the terrorists who had attacked our nation on September 11, 2001 had been granted approval for a change of immigration status precisely 6 months after the attacks of September 11, 2001! By then just about everyone on this planet knew that these two individuals had been terrorists and that they were dead- but the INS went ahead and provided them with authorization to change status as students in the United States!
I was called to testify at that hearing.
Here is the link to the C-SPAN video of the Congressional hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, at which I testified on March 19, 2002 as you watch this video I want you to consider how much has not changed in the more than 8 years since the attacks of September 11, 2001:
Topic for the hearing:
“INS’S MARCH 2002 NOTIFICATION OF APPROVAL OF CHANGE OF STATUS FOR PILOT TRAINING FOR TERRORIST HIJACKERS MOHAMMED ATTA AND MARWAN AL-SHEHHI”
Here is the link to the transcript of the hearing in its entirety
The creation of the Department of Homeland Security has done no better to secure the homeland where immigration-related issues are concerned and, in fact, I would argue things may well have gotten worse!.
Time and again terrorists and others of questionable intentions and affiliations were easily able to make a mockery of the process by which aliens are provided with lawful status and even resident alien status and even United States citizenship. Meanwhile the citizens of our nation are witnessing a continual erosion of their expectations of privacy and freedom in the name of the “War on Terror” and “National Security!” Clearly our nation must take measures to protect us- but how are we being protected when it is a simple matter for aliens with malevolent intentions to enter our country either by running our nation’s borders where the border serves as little more than a “speed bump” or by entering under the auspices of the ever expanding Visa Waiver Program and then finding it relatively easy to game the system at USCIS and acquire resident alien status or even United States citizenship!
Consider, for example, that on Novermber 29, 2006 the Washington Post ran an article entitled:
“Citizenship Agency Lost 111,000 Files”
You can read the article at:
Incredibly the applications that related to those 111,000 files were all processed without the relating immigration files including the 30,000 aliens who were naturalized by adjudications officers who were not provided with the critically important immigration files relating to the aliens who applied for United States citizenship. This travesty took place more than 13 years after Kansi gamed the system to acquire political asylum and opened fire of CIA officers. Just one month later other terrorists from the Middle East who launched the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 and had also committed visa fraud and immigration fraud in order to facilitate their plans to attack our nation and kill our citizens. Those 111,000 files were lost and the application adjudicated more than five years after the Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Yet the system has never possessed integrity and still possesses no integrity today as the most recent GAO report shows!
The effective enforcement and administration of our nation’s immigration laws are, arguably, among the most important of all missions that are supposed to be carried out by our federal government.
Nothing less than the security of our nation and safety of our citizens hang in the balance!
A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!
If our country is to survive and if our children and their children are to get their share of the “American Dream” the citizens of this nation must take their citizenship seriously!
We the People must be the best citizens we can be, citizens who are worthy of the gallantry demonstrated by our valiant men and women in the military, law enforcement and firefighters, who routinely go in harm’s way in defense of this nation and our citizens.
My goal in writing this and other commentaries is to point out our nations many failings before more victims pay the ultimate price for the incompetence and ineptitude of our government.
The first step in problem-solving is to first identify the problems and vulnerabilities and then devise strategies to overcome them.
If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same. We need to create a “Bucket Brigade of Truth!”
The practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there.
The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!
The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians. I implore you to resolve this year to get involved!
I believe our nation’s is greatly benefited by the rich diversity of our people which is why I could never imagine living anywhere except New York City, arguably the most diverse city in our nation if not, in fact, the world. However, my idea of diversity most certainly does not include members of MS-13, the Mexican drug cartels or members of other transnational gangs or members of al-Qaeda!
Three Convicted in Terror-Related Cases Later Granted U.S. Citizenship by Obama Administration