Survival of Our Nation and Lives of Our Citizens Hang in The Balance

This commentary was predicated on a news release that was posted on the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) website on November 30, 2011 and reported on the arrest of Karena Chuang, the operator of the Blue Diamond Aviation flight school operating in the Los Angeles, California area. Ms Chuang is charged with multiple counts of visa fraud because she allegedly falsified applications for visas for foreign students from Egypt, Sri Lanka and Taiwan to enter the United States to attend flight schools.

There are a number of points to consider including the way that this news story was reported by the Associated Press in the Bloomberg Businessweek publication and presumably in many other publications that post Associated Press stories.

The ICE news release reported that Ms Chuang posed as the cousin of some of the aliens- yet nothing was stated about her immigration status. It is, of course, entirely possible that she is a United States citizen. Perhaps she was born in the United States or, perhaps she was a naturalized citizen. If she was naturalized, then I hope that the agents at ICE are giving her immigration file a thorough scrutiny to determine if she may have committed fraud. This is not an unreasonable concern because she is, after all, being charged with aiding aliens to enter the United States by submitted fraud-laden applications.

For every criminal who gets arrested for committing a crime, many more are able to avoid detection and arrest. Where visa fraud and other immigration and border security issues are concerned, there is an extreme shortage of personnel and other resources dedicated to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. There is also an abject lack of desire by our “leaders” in Washington to enforce these laws and secure our nation’s borders no matter where the border exists- whether it along the land borders, along our 95,000 miles of coastline or at international airports.

We are constantly reminded that the terrorists only have to succeed once while we must be right 100% of the time! Every visa fraud ring provides the terrorists with many opportunities to succeed! Yet a relative handful of enforcement personnel are all that stand between our nation and our citizens and those who would carry out the next horrific terrorist attack!

Obviously it is extremely worrisome that foreign students were admitted into the United States in order to attend flight school when you realize the incredible efforts and the huge costs that are expended by our government to secure airports and aircraft. It is also interesting that the ICE news release noted the extreme importance of the visa process in scrutinizing aliens who seek entry into the United States.

“Protecting national security is the top priority for the Justice Department, and one important way to protect the homeland is to have a secure system to control who enters the United States,” said United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. “Visa fraud schemes, such as the one allegedly operated by Ms. Chuang, may be driven by promises of financial gain, but they directly compromise the security of the United States.”

The visa process, in a manner of speaking, pushes our nation’s borders to the United States Embassy or Consulate where applications for visas are submitted and processed.

Anyone who owns a home or other property knows that when you wish to protect your house or other such property, you generally erect a fence on the outermost extremity of the land on which the house is located. While much has been made about the construction of a fence to secure our border with Mexico, the visa process can be thought of as a fence constructed in distant locations around the world as a means of protecting our nation.

Incredibly, however, our nation now has a Visa Waiver Program that enables the citizens of some 36 countries to seek to enter the United States without first applying for a visa!

That list of countries included in this program continues to expand even as security measures that erode expectations of privacy and freedom of citizens of the United States continue to be ratcheted up!

To a great extent, the insane Visa Waiver program has been created to satisfy the demands of the United States Chamber of Commerce, a wide variety of companies that are involved in the hotel, travel and hospitality industries and even corporation engaged in manufacturing. These various diverse businesses have banded together under the umbrella of a program known as the “Discover America Partnership.”

On March 18, 2004 I testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims at the behest of Sheila Jackson Lee, the then Ranking Member of that subcommittee. This is the title of that hearing:

“PUSHING THE BORDER OUT ON ALIEN SMUGGLING: NEW TOOLS AND INTELLIGENCE INITIATIVES”

Here is the link to the transcript of that hearing in its entirety:

http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/judiciary/hju93716.000/hju93716_0f.htm

Check out the link I have provided to you below and excerpts from the material to be found on the webpage posted by the organization that posted the material. According to this website, NRF (National Retail Federation) has joined the Discover America Partnership! These industries have absolutely no expertise in national security or in issues where border security are concerned. Yet they have staked out a position because they are motivated by nothing more than greed! The more people who will travel to the United States, the more people who are likely to stay in hotels, eat in the restaurants, attend Broadway shoes and buy the souvenirs and other trinkets peddled in cities around the United States.

Here are some links to “The Discover America Partnership:”

http://www.smartervisapolicy.org/site/?q=node/5

http://www.discoveramericapartnership.org/

http://www.travelagentcentral.com/passport-and-visa-rulings/discover-america-partnership-wins-us-chamber-support-28420

http://www.orourkehospitality.com/media-room/news.php?sid=54899

NRF Joins New Travel Coalition to Reform Visa Process

Increase in Tourism to Generate Demand for U.S. Goods and Create 1.3 million U.S. Job

The National Retail Federation is calling for comprehensive reform to the antiquated visa process that has cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars. To help advance these measures, NRF has joined the Discover America Partnership, a broad coalition to advance visa and reentry reforms for international travel.

“The visa process is broken and is in desperate need of reform”

“The visa process is broken and is in desperate need of reform,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We need a visa policy that will bring visitors from the fastest growing countries to the U.S. to help generate jobs and bolster economic growth.”

A new report issued by the U.S. Travel Association outlines how common-sense reforms that are relatively easy to implement could create 1.3 million more U.S. jobs and add $859 billion to the U.S. economy by 2020 – all with little or no cost to taxpayers.

The report’s comprehensive, four-step plan will help the United States achieve its goal of becoming more competitive in the global travel market, which in turn will expand U.S. exports, create new jobs and drive economic growth. The report recommends:

  • America must align U.S. State Department resources with market demands;
  • America must reduce visa interview wait times to 10 days or fewer;
  • The U.S. State Department must improve planning, measurement and transparency; and
  • America must expand the Visa Waiver Program.
  • The Discover America Partnership, under the leadership of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Travel Association, is a lobbying and grassroots campaign to advance visa and entry reforms that will enable the United States to regain the 17 percent market share of overseas travelers it had in 2000 by 2015.

    As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF’s global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. In the United States, NRF represents the breadth and diversity of an industry with more than 1.6 million American companies that employ nearly 25 million workers and generated 2010 sales of $2.4 trillion. www.nrf.com

    It is understandable that the business executives want to have more customers but while they have signed on to a program referred to as “Discover America” it is apparent that they have forgotten that al-Qaeda has already discovered America!

    They are also very short sighted- in the days, weeks and even months after the attacks of September 11, 2001 airliners flew with many empty seats. Hotels, restaurants and tourist-related businesses were nearly devoid of patrons. It was seen as an act of patriotism and, in fact, heroic, for people to board airliners and fly anywhere in the United States but especially to major cities.

    If, God forbid there is another terrorist attack it is entirely possible that many hotels will go bankrupt along with restaurants and other businesses that depend on tourism.

    I am not, however, surprised that these corporate executives do not seem to dive a damn about the safety of our nation- not when it may cause them to lose revenue. What is infuriating is that our “leaders” in Washington are actually doing what these idiots tell them to do when they call for an expansion of the Visa Waiver Program!

    What qualifies these corporate executives to essentially create a program that endangers our nation’s security? How credible is their advice?

    These business executives have no knowledge and no experience in anything other than knowing how to separate people from the contents of their wallets and yet when they demand that our nation compromise its security and endanger the lives of the citizens our government gladly does what these executives want!

    By the way, did you notice how the language calling for an expansion of the Visa Waiver Program sounds remarkably like the language calling for Comprehensive Immigration Reform? Here is a direct quote from that web page again- in case you missed it the first time:

    “The visa process is broken and is in desperate need of reform,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We need a visa policy that will bring visitors from the fastest growing countries to the U.S. to help generate jobs and bolster economic growth.”

    How many times have we heard that the immigration system is broken and the solution is to implement a program (Comprehensive Immigration Reform) that would provide perhaps tens of millions of illegal aliens with lawful status and official identity documents even though there is no reliable way of knowing anything about the vast majority of these people whose presence represents a violations of our borders and our laws that are intended to prevent the entry of aliens into our country whose presence would be harmful or might even present a clear danger to our citizens and our nation?

    When you read the Washington Times article, I want you to pay attention to an interesting point that Dave Boyer made about one of the proposed requirements that must be met by countries before they can be added to the list:

    “The bills would make an overstay rate of less than 3 percent the primary qualifying criteria for a nation’s membership in the program. Current policy uses a country’s rate of visa refusals, which many experts think is an outdated method of assessing security risks.”

    The problem is that there is absolutely no way of reliably knowing what the overstay rate is for any country!

    One of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission was to implement US-VISIT which would track the arrival and departure of aliens who enter the United States on nonimmigrant visas. Our nation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this program that was deemed to be essential by the 9/11 Commission and, after many years, the departure of aliens from the United States is not accurately tracked. So much for national security!

    I have a theory- I believe that there is a reason that the departure of nonimmigrant aliens has never been accurately determined because under the Visa Waiver Program, if it was determined that the overstay rate of aliens from a particular country exceeded the 3% figure, that country would have to be eliminated from the program. Being the cynic I am, I am of the opinion that this is simply a matter of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell!”

    Except in this case- ignorance is anything but bliss!

    On May 26, 2011 I was interviewed by Dave Boyer of the Washington Times about a proposal that Poland be added to the list of Visa Waiver countries. Here is a link to that news report that was titled, “Warsaw wants in on U.S. visa waivers- Poles to press Obama in visit:”

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/may/26/warsaw-wants-in-on-us-visa-waivers/

    Here is a list of reasons why an effectively administered visa program is essential to the security of our nation:

    You can review the State Department’s website for information about this wrongheaded and, indeed, treacherous Visa Waiver Program at:

    http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html

    Some time ago I compiled a list of the ways in which the visa process can be helpful to law enforcement and bolster our nation’s efforts to prevent the entry of aliens whose presence on our country may prove harmful to our nation and our citizens.

    Here is the list of the 6 benefits that the visa requirement provides to national security and that the Visa Waiver Program denies our nation:

    1. By requiring visas of aliens who seek to enter the United States, this process helps to screen potential passengers on airliners that are destined to the United States. Richard Reid, the so-called “Shoe Bomber” was able to board an airliner to come to the United States although he had no intentions of entering the United States, his apparent goal was to blow up the airliner and its many passengers somewhere over the depths of the Atlantic Ocean by detonating explosives he had concealed in his shoes. Because he is a subject of Great Britain, a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, Reid did not obtain a visa before he boarded that airliner.

    2. The CBP inspectors are supposed to make a decision in one minute or less as to the admissibility of an alien seeking to enter the United States. The visa requirement helps them to do a more effective job. Theirs is a tough job I can certainly relate to, I began my career at the former INS as an immigration inspector at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and worked there for 4 years before I became a special agent.

    3. The application for a nonimmigrant visa contains roughly 40 questions that could provide invaluable information to law enforcement officials should that alien become the target of a criminal or terrorist investigation. The information could provide intelligence as well as investigative leads. You can check out the application for a nonimmigrant (tourist) visa by clicking on this link:

    https://evisaforms.state.gov/ds156.asp

    4. If an alien applicant lies on the application for a visa that lie is called “visa fraud.” The maximum penalty for visa fraud starts out at 10 years in jail for those who commit this crime simply in order to come to the United States, ostensibly to seek unlawful employment or other such purpose. The penalty increases to 15 years in jail for those aliens who obtain a visa to commit a felony. For aliens who engage in visa fraud to traffic in narcotics or commit another narcotics-related crime, the maximum jail sentence that can be imposes rises to 20 years. Finally, when an alien can be proven to have engaged in visa fraud in furtherance of terrorism, the maximum penalty climbs to 25 years in prison. It is important to note that while it may be difficult to prove that an individual is a terrorist, it is usually relatively simple to prove that the alien has committed visa fraud when there is fraud involved in the visa application. Indeed, terror suspects are often charged with visa fraud.

    5. The charge of visa fraud can also be extremely helpful to law enforcement authorities who want to take a bad guy off the street without tipping their hand to the other members of a criminal conspiracy or terrorism conspiracy that the individual arrested was being arrested for his involvement in terrorism or a criminal organization. You can arrest the alien who commits visa fraud for that violation of law and not for other charges that might make it clear that the investigation underway is targeting a criminal or terrorist organization.

    6. Even when an alien applies for a visa and his application is denied, the application he filed remains available for law enforcement and intelligence personnel to review to seek to glean intelligence from that application.

    What is disturbing is how the reporter for Associate Press who covered the arrest of Ms Chuang decided to interview a political science professor from Ohio State University about this report. That report appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek in an article that can be found at:

    http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9RBOK6G0.htm

    Here is a quote issued by Claude Arnold, the Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles office of ICE HSA (Homeland Security Investigations) from that A.P. news story that makes it appear that the point was to assuage any concerns that may be created in reading about this alleged visa fraud arrest:

    “Arnold said none of the more than dozen foreign students who trained at Chuang’s school since 2006 had ties to terrorism.”

    The above-noted quote states that this fraud scheme had been ongoing for five years. Why did it take so long for the alleged fraud applications to be uncovered? What if anything is being done to locate those who availed themselves of the “services” that Chuang purportedly provided them with? Even if these aliens are not engaged in identified terrorist activities if, in fact, they entered into an agreement to circumvent our nation’s immigration laws, these aliens are subject to deportation (removal) and prosecution for being coconspirators. If Ms Chuang is guilty of conspiring to commit fraud, then those who benefited by this scheme are also guilty!

    (I wonder if any of these aliens are among the 300,000 illegal aliens who, by President Obama’s Executive Order< have been granted employment authorization! After all, even if they committed crimes in entering our country by committing visa fraud, unless they are prosecuted and found guilty, under our immigration laws, they are not considered to be "criminal aliens!") Here is another excerpt from the Bloomberg Businessweek article that appears to have been included to further calm any concerns the reader of the news report may have about how national security may have been compromised: John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, said he believed training foreigners at unauthorized schools to fly small planes posed a minimal security threat and that maneuvering a larger commercial aircraft would take a tremendous amount of skill that aspiring terrorists don't likely have. He said other measures can be taken to protect against a potential hijacking, such as hardened cockpit doors. "If there are laws being broken, there are laws being broken," said Mueller, who recently co-authored a book on the cost effectiveness of homeland security spending. "If there's the idea these people are suddenly going to become terrorists and cause bad damage with little tiny planes, it is a questionable assumption." Four of the 9/11 hijackers received flight training in the United States before the attacks - and three of them had simulated flights in large jets. Mr. Mueller's statement leaves me scratching my head! It would certainly appear that Mueller wanted to minimize the significance of this case, noting that small planes posed a "minimal security threat" and ignored what should have been obvious- that any pilot who aspires to ultimately fly a large, multi-engine jet plane would first have to learn to fly in a small airplane! He also should have an understanding that there are different ways that an airplane can be used to carry out an attack that don't involve using the airplane as a sort of manned cruise missile as was done on 9/11. A small aircraft can be used to fly over a target or over a city to disperse chemical or biological material the same way that a crop duster disperses insecticide. Additionally, if terrorists were, God forbid, able to get their hands on a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb, they could fly over the center of a densely populated area and set that device off at a relatively low altitude- indeed, it is generally accepted that a nuclear device would inflict much greater damage if detonated in the air rather than on the ground! Think about how, on several occasions in the past, when small aircraft violated airspace over Washington, DC interceptor fighter jets were dispatched and buildings were evacuated! Our nation, indeed, the entire world appears to be suffering from extreme greed and this greed has apparently blinded so many to the dangers of open borders that they are not only acting against the best interests of the majority of people around the world, but against their own best interests! It is time for our nation's leaders, on all levels, to come to terms with the fundamental fact that the purpose of our immigration laws is to protect our nation and our citizens from aliens whose presence has the potential to have a serious adverse impact. Ignoring those laws exposes our nation and our citizens to a variety of serious threats and challenges ranging from national security and criminal justice and public safety to the economy, the environment, healthcare and education! 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. For far too long our citizens demonstrated apathy which 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. It is therefore understandable that the politicians of both parties are greatly concerned about the demonstrations currently sweeping our nation just as did the creation of the Tea Party. Clearly more and more of our fellow Americans are demonstrating that they are not as dumb as the politicians from both parties had expected us to be! I am encouraged that more and more of us, We the People, are not willing to simply sit on the sidelines anymore! 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! I also believe that the original purpose of our nation's immigration laws need to be brought "front and center" to make certain that our nation does not permit the entry of aliens into our country whose presence in our country is problematic for the citizens of our nation and that if such aliens do succeed in entering our country that our nation have the resources, integrity and dedication to do everything possible to make it impossible for such aliens to function within our country so that even if they are not apprehended, they will find it pointless to remain in the United States. As I have noted on a number of occasions, "No one would break into the amusement park if they could not get to go on the rides and no one remains in the amusement park at the end of the day when they turn shut down the rides and turn off the lights!" If our government's failures to secure our nation's borders and effectively enforce our immigration laws 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!Owner of Los Angeles-area flight school arrested on visa fraud charges

    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.