As an immigration attorney, I have one simple recommendation. But do we have the courage to implement it?
It is 9 years since 9/11, and the West has come to the painful conclusion that it is impossible for Western intelligence agencies to monitor, let alone preempt, all acts of terrorism from Muslim militants, who are hell-bent on destroying our way of life. True enough, we are handicapped by our own laws of due process, the sovereignty of those nations who refuse to crack down on terrorists in their midst who are given safe haven for political reasons and, mainly, the reality that we simply cannot keep an eye on everybody.
I have developed, however, an effective strategy that we can easily apply if we are willing to adopt a tactic of leverage, rather than a frontal assault.
It is safe to assume that the majority of Muslims are "moderate," in the sense that they do not stay up day and night planning how to destroy the West. Yes, there may be a large number of these Muslims who sympathize with some of the goals of Muslim terrorists, but these Muslims pose no direct or immediate threat to our way of life.
Having said that, one must realize that a major problem remains: Moderate Muslims have yet to rise up as one body to publicly condemn and effectively marginalize Muslim terrorists. And for them to do this is crucial in the conflict we face. More importantly, they have failed to demand that their own governments crackdown on their host Muslim terrorists immediately and permanently.
The failure on the part of Muslim moderates to pressure their own governments is either because they feel that their protest is a hopeless and meaningless gesture or because they secretly sympathize with the terrorists' goals, and they, therefore, have no motivation to act differently. One way or another, one fact is clear: there is no real "cost" or price to pay to moderate Muslims for staying quiet, or even condoning the murderous activities of their coreligionists. Yet it is precisely this absence of effective condemnation and marginalization of Muslim terrorists by Muslim moderates that serves as the problem.
There is, meanwhile, a solution available to the West that also has very little, if any, cost:
The moderate Muslim population enjoys almost unfettered travel throughout Western Europe, Canada, and the United States. This travel generally requires a visa, issued by U.S. and Western consulates, which are located in all Muslim countries. A visa issued for travel to a Western country is a generous gift by the West to these moderate Muslims. These visas often include work permits, student visas, lawful permanent residence, green cards, and citizenship. Alas, this also allows a foreign visitor the ability to "embed" himself in our society, which may also lead to “home grown" terrorism.
Further, these visas allow the elites of the Muslim governmental leadership which host these Muslim terrorists to send their children to Western schools, buy second homes, check on their foreign bank accounts and investments, and enjoy the stability of the West. At the same time, these elites takes no effective steps to curb their coreligionists' attacks on the West.
My plan is quite simple: Once it is determined that a country gives "safe haven" to terrorists or their training camps, like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, then immediately, all visas – tourist visas, student visas, professional work visas, and even naturalization applications – shall be suspended and placed in moratorium. Determination should be decided by intelligence officials and not the State Department in this case. Those Muslim nationals who are currently abroad will not be able to obtain a visa to visit the U.S. or other Western countries during the visa moratorium period. Those Muslims who are already in the U.S. would be permitted to complete their specific visa purpose so that their studies or work are not interrupted. At the end of the educational or employment term, the current visas would be suspended and the Muslim "moderates" who hold them would be required to return home until the moratorium is lifted. This would also include naturalization applications by Muslim moderates, who are in the process of applying for U.S. or Western citizenship. Their applications would be suspended, and they would be required to wait for their U.S. or Western citizenship until the moratorium was lifted.
During the moratorium period, the thousands of aliens who reside in countries which harbor terrorist and who have applied for visas will be distressed, to say the least, if they are not able to travel to the Western country of their choice. These Muslim moderates would bring immediate and overwhelming pressure on their own governments to pressure our State Department to issue visas. The response from our State Department would be simple: "Your country has been declared a 'host to terrorists,' and when you have eliminated that threat, we will be happy to issue visas once again." This response would be no different than one applied to airports which are considered to be non-safe and to which American airplanes will not fly. The decision to declare a country a "haven" for terrorists should not, again, be made by the State Department, as it is sensitive to political influences.
At this point the leverage begins. The pressure on the country that hosts the terrorists will be brought to bear, not by Western soldiers, but rather by the indigenous Muslim moderates who would then see to it that terrorism, and support for it, in their country would be eliminated. Standing by as their coreligionists wage war against the West would have an immediate cost to moderate Muslims. Not helping the West would prevent Muslim moderates from living, working, or studying amongst us.
If these Muslim countries decide to reciprocate and ban Westerners from visiting, they will then hurt only themselves, since foreign investment would dry up. This would only add to the leverage discussed above, as businessmen will pressure their own governments to allow foreign visitors to enter the country.
The forces of the Left will, as expected, object to this plan as “collective punishment.” However, there is already collective punishment that Americans and others throughout the West suffer each time we take an airplane or enter a government office building. We are obliged to undress ourselves because of a potential Muslim bomb. We have already forgotten what it means to live in a society that is not racked with fear.
The advantage of my suggestion is that we do not have to commit one soldier or one penny in order to drive the host country to eradicate its own nest of terrorists. This plan would have most likely prevented the Times Square bomber from training in Pakistan, and it would have surely prevented other terrorists from inflicting so much pain and suffering upon us.
I do not know who has the courage to initiate this policy, but any administration that is really interested in fighting terrorism would be taking a giant step in the right direction by implementing this visa moratorium. It will work like a fulcrum, using the leverage of the moderate Muslim majority to bring pressure on their own governments to eradicate terrorism. These governments have until now refused to take up this task, despite billions of dollars that we lavish and waste on them.
Daniel Retter has been a practicing immigration attorney in Miami and New York since 1970. He has also been an adjunct professor of immigration law in law schools in both states.