US Visa Waiver Program Truly ‘Fly in The Ointment’

Yesterday I sent out an e-mail to alert you that Fox News was about to air a special report that they entitled, “Secrets of 9/11.”

Here is the link to the report about this program that appeared on the internet:

I had an opportunity to watch this excellent program that will be re-broadcast tomorrow night, Sunday, May 22nd at 9:00 PM Eastern Time. If you missed seeing the program yesterday, I urge you to watch it when it re-airs.

One of the issues that this program did not address, however, is the most serious question as to whether or not our government has addressed the numerous vulnerabilities that enabled the terrorists to enter our country as they prepared to attack our nation and slaughter so many innocent victims and do such harm to our nation and our way of life. Let’s face it, the economic damages still reverberate throughout not only the economy of the United States but the world’s economy.

Additionally, and in my judgement, perhaps even more disturbing, is how so many of our expectations of privacy and freedom guaranteed by our Constitution- especially the Fourth Amendment have been greatly curtailed, in the name of national security.

The program not only focused on a number of the terrorists and how they entered the United States, in some instances, multiple times, but also on how those foreign nationals who entered the United States provided the hijackers with apartments, funding and other essential assistance that enabled them to carry out their deadly attacks. Most of these “supporting cast members” had entered the United States with visas that enabled them to gain entrance into our country and then, in the parlance of the 9/11 Commission, embed themselves in our country.

The issue of such a co-conspirator who managed to secure political asylum was raised and along with it you have to consider how fatally flawed the visa system was and is to this very day. In fact, the Visa Waiver Program that enables aliens from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program to seek to enter our country for up to 90 days without even first applying for a visa has now been greatly expanded and covers the citizens of 36 countries!

In the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 there was a veritable parade of politicians who stood before the cameras and the forest of microphones and demanded to know why no one had connected the dots! Clearly the process by which visas are issued was a critical component of the system that failed. Yet the Visa Waiver Program has not only continued on since September 11, 2001, it has been expanded!

You cannot point to a single member of Congress from either political party who has had the guts or the commonsense to call for the immediate termination of the Visa Waiver Program! This is insane!

It is so frustrating and maddening that I think it is time to provide the House of Representatives with a more honest and descriptive name- I would call it the “House of Corporate Interests!”

Last month I wrote an extensive commentary about how a proposed visa security program created concerns among some members of the United States Senate. This program would require that U.S. visa issuing posts in 19 countries increase the scrutiny of applications for visas. I have decided to copy that commentary and provide it below. Please take the time to read it. My comments about the Senate bill also apply to H.R. 1741, the House version of the bill that is intended to add a level of security to the process by which visas are issued to aliens.

In reviewing H.R. 1741, a couple of extremely serious deficiencies occurred to me that I will share with you.

First of all, I absolutely agree with those who support this bill that all of the measures contained in this legislation be implemented- and the sooner the better! The flaws in the process by which visas are issued and aliens are provided with immigration benefits such as being provided with lawful immigrant status and United States citizenship have been well known for many years and, in fact, the very first time I was called to testify at a hearing was way back in May 1997 when the topic for that hearings was Visa Fraud and Immigration Benefit Fraud in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 1993.

However- the Visa Waiver Program is truly the “Fly in the ointment.” This program flies in the face of some of the protections that the Secure Visa legislation would provide for our nation. The time has long since come to terminate the Visa Waiver Program altogether! Incidentally, when you consider that England and Germany are on the list of countries where increased scrutiny would be required, if an alien who lived in those countries naturalized in those countries- under the Visa Waiver Program these newly minted citizens of England or Germany would go from enhanced scrutiny to Visa Waiver! Frankly, this is nuts!

Second- in my humble opinion, only implementing these measures in a very limited number of countries would be self-defeating. A determined terrorist or other bad actor could simply apply for a visa at a post not included in this bill and circumvent the process. I was surprised that Bolivia- a major source country for cocaine whose leader is openly hostile to our nation should have been on the list of countries of concern as should Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina inasmuch as the “Tri-Border” region which is located at the junction of those three countries, is home to terrorist training camps operated by Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda.

A terrorist who knew that he might not withstand the enhance scrutiny required the Secure Visa program might decide to apply for a visa in France, Spain, Portugal or Italy and not Germany or Great Britain!

By limiting the implementation of this program to a designated limited number of countries that are known to all would be foreign visitors provides a sort of traffic report to potential terrorists and/or criminals! When we drive to work or some other destination we tend to turn on the radio to a station that broadcasts traffic reports in order to find the best and quickest way of getting to our destination. By providing aliens who would want to avoid enhanced scrutiny, this legislation would provide them with an easy way to evade the process! This is absolutely insane!

Perhaps initially randomness could be substituted for the requirement that all visa issuing posts increase the scrutiny of applications for visas until all such posts can be brought up to speed with special “flying” security teams being dispatched randomly to visa issuing posts around the world on a random basis so that no terrorist could simply seek to secure a visa from a “soft” post. The point is that the time has long since passed for our nation to get by with creating illusions of security. The time has come for our nation’s borders to be made secure- really and truly secure- and the visa process and the immigration benefits program must finally have real integrity!

The point is that these huge holes in the system are, in a word, unacceptable! If we were sitting in a boat and found a number of holes in the bottom of the boat, plugging most of the holes would not prevent the boat from sinking to the bottom of the lake. Plugging a few of the holes may mean that the boat will stay afloat awhile longer but in the end, it will sink!

National security must be viewed the same way- all vulnerabilities must be addressed- and the quicker the better!

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 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!

Michael Cutler
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.