On June 16, 2016 John Brennan, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified before a hearing conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the various threats and challenges that confront our nation, including the growth of the Chinese military and its expanding sphere of influence and the threats posed to the United States, our allies and other countries around the world by ISIS. C-SPAN posted a video of the hearing.
The title of the report posted by Fox News in covering that hearing pulled no punches and left nothing to the imagination: “CIA Director Warns of ISIS Using Refugee Streams to Move Operatives .”
Here is the way that Brennan articulated his concerns on this issue in his prepared testimony:
Since at least 2014, ISIL has been working to build an apparatus to direct and inspire attacks against its foreign enemies, resulting in hundreds of casualties. The most prominent examples are the attacks in Paris and Brussels, which we assess were directed by ISIL's leadership.
We judge that ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks. ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West. And the group is probably exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including refugee flows, smuggling routes, and legitimate methods of travel.
Meanwhile, even as Brennan voiced his concerns about the multitude of ways that terrorists were on the move around the world and seeking to attack the United States and its allies in the West, the administration continues to admit ever more refugees into the United States who cannot be effectively vetted.
The hearing that focused on the concerns of the CIA Director was not, however, the only hearing conducted last week in Washington that provided disturbing information about how our immigration system is likely to be exploited by terrorists.
On June 14, 2016 the Washington Times article “Illegal immigrants who overstay visas hardly ever caught, feds admit” reported on a hearing conducted by the House Committee on Homeland Security on the topic, “Overstaying Their Welcome: National Security Risks Posed by Visa Overstays.”
Some of the statistics that were revealed at the hearing, while disconcerting, were not surprising. We have known for decades that nearly half of all illegal aliens present in the United States did not run our borders and enter the United States without inspection, but had actually entered the United States through ports of entry as non-immigrant aliens. They were admitted for a temporary period of time and either failed to depart when they were supposed to or otherwise violated the terms of their admission.
In any event, according the statistics provided at the hearing, within the last year some 480,000 non-immigrant aliens failed to leave the United States when required, adding to the 5 million other such illegal aliens who had violated their immigration status.
Going back to the Washington Times article about this hearing, consider this excerpt:
At least 480,000 people overstayed their visas last year, adding to a backlog that’s reached some 5 million total, members of Congress said. But immigration agents launched investigations into just 10,000 of them, or about 0.2 percent, and arrested fewer than 2,000, less than 0.04 percent, saying the others don’t rise to the level of being priority targets.
“We utilize our prioritization scheme along with the resources that we have,” Craig Healy, assistant director for national security investigations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said as he struggled to defend the administration’s meager efforts.
He blamed a shortage of funding and a tricky environment, where authorities only have limited information, and it takes them months to decide if someone really did overstay their visa and if they are deemed serious enough offenders to make an effort to go after.
The assistant director for national security investigations complained that his agency suffered from a shortage of funding. However, On December 2, 2015 the Washington Times reported, “ICE gives away $113 million, says not enough illegal immigrants to deport.” That article focused on the testimony of the Director of ICE, Sarah Saldana, who conceded that although there may be as many as 15 million illegal aliens present in the United States, because of a number of factors, including administration policies, ICE had returned $113 million in appropriated funds that were supposed to be used to arrest and deport illegal aliens.
Now consider this paragraph from the Washington Times article:
Mr. Healy said once someone is flagged, his analysts then try to figure out if they can match the name to specific derogatory information and if they can track down where that person is. If so, they become one of the active cases, and he has “well over” 100 investigators to go after them.
It is beyond belief that Saldana refused to use the $113 million ICE was appropriated to arrest and deport illegal aliens, especially considering how, according to information provided at recent congressional hearings, there are currently hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens at large around the United States committing still more violent crimes. However even if, incomprehensibly, she didn't want to use the money to get alien felons off the streets of communities around the United States, why wasn't that money used to hire and train more ICE agents?
Additionally, I am thunder-struck by Craig Healy's assertion that determining how long an alien is present in the United States is hampered by a “tricky environment.” It would certainly be interesting to know if he ever arrested an illegal alien, notwithstanding his position of leadership at ICE. Many of the managers of ICE come from legacy Customs and have no meaningful background in immigration law enforcement. This was one of the “gifts” bestowed upon the United States when George W. Bush created the DHS -- the Department of Homeland Surrender.
When I was an INS special agent, many of the aliens my colleagues and I arrested had been lawfully admitted, but then had gone on to violate their terms of admission. While it is true that the system that is supposed to track the entry and departure of aliens has never been fully implemented (even though billions of dollars have been spent on this program) when immigration enforcement agents encounter an alien who entered the United States legally, it is a simple matter to determine if they have overstayed their authorized period.
However, if agents are prevented from questioning aliens they encounter while they are on duty and must first get information from databases, then the agency itself has created the impenetrable roadblocks to effective immigration law enforcement.
As for the system by which the arrival and departure is supposed to be tracked, if implemented, such a system could have had a profound impact on one of the “sacred cows” of the immigration world: the Visa Waiver Program. An effective tracking system could have uncovered excessive overstay rates of citizens of countries that participate in the dangerous Visa Waiver Program that enables aliens from 38 countries to enter the United States without first applying for a receiving a visa. I wrote about this disturbing program in my recent article, “GAO Revelations: Our Open Door For Terrorists: The deadly failures of the visa waiver program.” It is hard not to take the cynical view that this is a failure by design -- one of all too many where immigration is concerned.
One of the requirements for such Visa Waiver Program countries is that their citizens have a low rate of overstaying their authorized period of admission. There is clearly an incentive for our government to not have access to this information. As it is, the GAO report I predicated my article on reported on the fact that more than one-third of the 38 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program do not meet the requirement of providing timely information about terrorists. Yet nothing has been done to remove those countries from this program.
It is clear that our borders and our immigration laws represent our first line of defense and our last line of defense against ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Yet while Obama has seized upon the terror attack in Orlando to demand we take the guns out of the hands of terrorists, he refuses to do anything to keep terrorists out of the United States. Rather, he has promulgated policies and executive orders that facilitate the entry of aliens who may well pose a threat.
Brennan talked about the actions the next administration must take to protect our nation, actions the Obama administration has failed to take since its inception.
The next administration must do what the current administration has abjectly refused to do: effectively enforce our immigration laws, especially from within the interior of the United States. Nothing less than the security of our nation and the lives of our citizens are at stake.