Lack of Security Along US Borders Makes DHS a ‘Failure’

I am, as I suspect you already know, always searching for evidence of vulnerabilities in the immigration system that threaten the security of our nation and the lives of our citizens. Immigration is truly a system and each and every component of the system must work effectively and in a coordinated fashion.

What is the real outrage is that time and time again President Obama, Janet Napolitano and senior members of the Congress such as Chuck Schumer who chairs the Senate Immigration Subcommittee and a long list of others who advocate for the implementation of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the DREAM Act will insist that once the borders are secure it would be time to provide a pathway to United States citizenship to unknown tens of millions of aliens who are unable to substantiate their true identities. (That is what “undocumented” means!)

Meanwhile none of these “leaders” are being made to answer a fundamental question, “What bureaucracy of the DHS would be responsible for implementing and administering these massive amnesty program?”

Since no one is asking this question- let me answer it for you.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency that would be put in charge of this program. After you read my commentary today, I want you to ask yourself (and hopefully your members of Congress) how in blazes could this inept, incompetent, beleaguered and corrupt agency be still allowed to do any work for the United States of America?

There are many reasons why it is insane for Comprehensive Immigration Reform or the DREAM Act to be enacted, but let us start with the most basic issue- the government agency that would be put in charge of these massive amnesty programs cannot do its work today with even the barest modicum of integrity!

I defy anyone in any position of authority or in any position of knowledge to refute this statement!

Today’s commentary was predicated on a truly disturbing news report that detailed how a private contractor working for USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) was convicted and sentenced to five and a half years in jail in connection with his altering computer records concerning aliens who sought to become naturalized citizens. The article notes that this individual is believed to have tampered with the records of about 30 people and involved their ability to acquire United States passports.

Consider this excerpt from the report:

According to federal district court papers reviewed by Nextgov, Richard Abapo Quidilla, 39, of Pico Rivera, Calif., deleted the names, birth dates and other personal data of naturalized citizens in a secure database and substituted the corresponding information of illegal immigrants. He pleaded guilty in March to charges of computer fraud, procurement of citizenship unlawfully and aggravated identity theft, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy said.

You have to wonder how Quidilla was hired in the first place. Although there was not mention of any known criminal history, consider these two sentences that appeared in the report that make it certainly appear is if he has been found to have evidenced prior criminal behavior. If this was not the case the answer to the question as to how he could have passed background checks would have been, in my judgement, easily answered with a one word answer “Yes!” It would certainly appear that there was a problem with his background investigation. Furthermore, if there was a problem with his investigation, the obvious question that must be asked is, “How many more employees are working for these contractors at USCIS who may have criminal histories?” The next obvious question must be, “What is being done to determine who really has access to these computer databases and what their backgrounds are?”

I have heard many people call for the privatization of many government jobs. I have serious misgivings about this. Corporations are motivated by profit. They will seek to hire the least qualified personnel that they can get away with. Obviously there are incidents where federal employees are found to have engaged in wrong doing, but when a company hires personnel who have access to sensitive information and they are not working towards a career but only seeking a paycheck for a temporary period of time, they are potentially easier to corrupt.

There is an old saying that the best place for a spy to get a job is in the file room! Quidilla was not a spy but his job in the equivalent of the file room, provided him with opportunities to do serious harm to national security!

Consider how he was hired by checking out these two sentences from the article:

When asked whether Quidilla obtained the proper clearances and passed background checks to manage immigration records, Lori Haley, an Immigration, Customs and Enforcement spokeswoman, said she could not comment because the incident is under investigation at ICE.

Quidilla’s supervisors did not know he posed a risk, Dell officials said. “Dell had no knowledge of the former employee’s criminal behavior prior to his arrest,” company spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll said. “Dell holds its team members to the highest standards, and has a zero-tolerance policy for unethical behavior.”

Bad as this is, this is not the first time that such issues have been found at USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Just consider this next quote from the article:

This is not the first time USCIS employees have orchestrated citizenship scams – and auditors are warning that a troubled $2.4 billion project to automate immigration paperwork lacks controls to guard against future internal wrongdoers, according to a report released earlier this year by the Homeland Security Department Inspector General’s Office.

In fact the article contains a paragraph that illustrates how screwed up USCIS is:

Separately, a serious incident report obtained by Nextgov shows, in 2008, USCIS officials discovered that employees within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate – hired to ensure dangerous individuals do not receive immigration rights – hooked up a nongovernment computer to an external Internet connection at a Vermont center that handles visas for victims of violence and human trafficking, allowing staff to potentially extract or import data to commit identity theft.

We will delve a bit more into past examples of this sort of misconduct and the threats that this poses to the United States and our citizens, but first I want you to consider that the immigration benefits program that is the responsibility of USCIS is almost never reported on in the media.

Most of the news coverage about immigration focuses on our nation’s borders, especially the border that is supposed to separate the United States from Mexico. Make no mistake that border is anything but secure. Every time that Janet Napolitano claims that the border is secure she is lying. I hate to call anyone a liar- it is, in my view, one of the worst things you can accuse someone of, especially when that person holds a position of public trust, but there is no way that anyone could declare our borders to be secure given all of the empirical evidence to be found in news reports on a daily basis. The falsehoods concerning efforts to secure our nation’s borders stated by the person in charge of the DHS, the agency that is charged with a number of major missions including the securing of our nation’s borders lead me to refer to DHS as the Department of Homeland surrender!

I wish that the lack of security along our borders that threatened our security was the only failing of the DHS, however.

An area of equally grave concern is the way that applications for immigration benefits are adjudicated and the fact that, all too often, people who are statutorily ineligible to receive those benefits are provided with those benefits anyway!

Examples of immigration benefits include the conferring of permission upon an alien to remain lawfully in the United States for a longer period of time than he was initially admitted for, permission to change schools as a foreign student or to be authorized to legally work in a job that constitutes “practical training” in conjunction with their course of study, replacing lost or damaged immigration identity documents, the conferring of lawful immigrant status upon an alien and the naturalization of an alien thereby conferring the most highly valued honor a nation my bestow upon an alien, citizenship.

That list of benefits is not all inclusive but I believe it provides you with an idea as to what this component of the immigration system is all about and how important it is.

Terrorists who have operated in our country have understood the value of gaming the immigration benefits program as a means of embedding themselves in our country. An alien who can provide evidence of lawful status in our country can obtain driver’s licenses and has nothing to fear if they are approached by law enforcement authorities. Lawful immigration status provides such aliens with the freedom of unfettered movement around our country. Aliens who have been granted resident alien status are placed on the pathway to United States citizenship and can seek employment in almost any industry and any location they want.

United States citizenship represents the key to America’s front door! Our country. unlike many others, does not make a distinction between naturalized citizens and citizens who acquired their citizenship at birth except where the law requires that only a natural born citizen may be the President or Vice President of the United States.

Naturalized citizens have risen to positions of great power in our country in politics, in the military, in law enforcement and other such positions of power and trust.

You should also know that when an alien becomes a naturalized citizen, on the day of being sworn in as a new citizen, that newly minted citizen may opt to legally change his (her) name, and at no extra cost!

I know of many older people, for example, in the Jewish community, who felt uncomfortable in having names that sounded “Jewish” and sought to have names that sounded more “American.” Many of these folks had escaped the Holocaust and as a conditioned reflex feared being identifiable as being Jewish after the traumas they experienced during the Second World War.

Immigrants from all over the world believed that being American meant having a name that did not belie their foreign origins and sought to change their names.

One of the areas of concern that I have is that when an alien is naturalized and changes his name via the naturalization process, that alien may apply for a United States passport and the passport that he is issued will only reflect the name he took when he naturalized! Stop and give that a moment to let this sink in.

A naturalized citizen can, in effect, place himself into his own unofficial “Witness Protection Program” by changing his name when he becomes a citizen and then obtaining a passport that conceals his previous identity!

Most of the terror watch lists and “No Fly” lists utilized by the United States and other countries around the world, consist of names without any biometrics to further identify the person who is identified on those lists.

I am aware of at least one individual who had been born in the Middle East who managed to secure a passport in his new name and, according to entrance and exits stamps imprinted in his passport, he was able enter many countries around the world as a United States citizen with a new, nondescript name, while his original name was on a long list of U.S. terror watch lists and “No Fly” lists. He was identified as being a terrorist on those lists but his new name was never linked to his old name on those lists!

When the CBP inspector who was involved with this incident contacted the Joint Terrorism Task Force the arriving U.S. citizen was promptly taken into custody. He was able to enter many countries that, I suspect, would never have allowed him to enter if their officials had known his original name. In fact, they may have arrested him- yet our fatally flawed process aided and abetted this apparent terrorist! You have to wonder why he traveled to those countries and what dangers this may have created for innocent people around the world!

(Think about this madness the next time you are waiting on one of those long, long lines at an airport terminal as you prepare to fly on an airliner and have to undergo all sorts of scrutiny including having your officially issued government identity document carefully scrutinized by a TSA screener.)

Meanwhile, this serious vulnerability could be easily eliminated if the State Department would simply add the additional names that a United States citizen might have when passports are issued. This does not take rocket science or a quantum leap in technology, it would only take a bit of commonsense! If the terror suspect I noted above had been issued a U.S. passport that reflected his previous name the problem would have been solved. Furthermore, I am troubled by the fact that this person had been able to naturalize in the first place. It is possible that his links to terrorism might not have been known at the time that he was naturalized, but given the endemic incompetence demonstrated in so many ways, I would not be surprised if he was naturalized *after* his involvement in terrorism was known!

United States passports are also of great value because, under the immigration laws, a non-expired passport provides sufficient proof of identity and lawful status for a person to legally work in the United States.

The news report also provided a link to an report prepared by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for DHS. As you may know, OIG is the equivalent of “Internal Affairs” and is charged with uncovering evidence of nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance within agencies that fall under their purview.

Please make certain to click on the link that relates to the DHS OIG report entitled: “*Examining Insider Threat Risk at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Redacted)”* * * The link is included in the report but here it is again:

It would certainly seem that there is no bottom to this cesspool!

The immigration system must be thought of as being comparable to a boat with a bunch of holes in it. Unless all of the holes are plugged, that boat will undoubtedly wind up at the bottom of the lake! As I noted in a recent commentary, our nation is wasting its money and the lives of our valiant young men and women who serve our nation in the various military services of our nation if these other serious threats to national security are not addressed effectively!

Until and unless our nation’s leaders come to accept the fact that the various components of our immigration system are as much a part of national security as are our military and our intelligence services, our nation will remain at grave risk from terrorist attacks, from extremely violent drug cartels and from nations who are hostile to the United States and seek to infiltrate their operatives into the United States.

I hate being repetitious but it is important to remember that the immigration laws are intended to prevent the entry and continued presence, in our country, of aliens whose presence poses a threat to our nation’s security and the survival of our citizens.

Here is a link to Title 8, United States Code, Section 212, the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that enumerates the various categories of aliens who are statutorily ineligible to enter the United States:

The securing of our nation’s borders and 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. A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!

I f 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 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!

If this situation concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional “Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation!

All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are!

We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance.

This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!

*You* are either part of the solution or *you* are a part of the problem!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

Former federal contractor gets jail time for falsifying immigration records

Michael Cutler, a former Senior INS Investigator, an expert witness in more than a dozen Congressional Hearings is a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and an advisor to the ‘911 Families for a Secure America.’ He writes about the nexus between immigration and national security.