DACA Solution Must Heed 9/11 Commission Findings

National security concerns should take center stage in immigration reform.

On January 30th President Trump delivered his much anticipated and highly inspirational State of the Union Address. One of the subjects of his address was a proposal for reforming the immigration system that rests upon “four pillars.” One of those pillars seeks to resolve the DACA dilemma by providing lawful status and a pathway to U.S. citizenship for approximately 1.8 million illegal aliens, which includes 700,000 DACA recipients plus additional DACA-eligible individuals who, for unknown reasons, did not apply while the program was in effect. 
 
In exchange for this compromise, the White House is requesting the creation of a $25 billion trust fund for border technology and infrastructure with additional funding for personnel increases.  Additionally, the administration wants an end to so-called “chain migration” limiting family-based visas to spouses and minor children. The administration also wants to terminate the diversity visa lottery, although visas would be used to clear the backlog of aliens who are already waiting for family-based immigrant visas and for immigrant visas for aliens possessing high-skills. 
 
This solution may be well-intentioned, but ignores the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, to which I provided testimony. But before we even consider the 9/11 Commission, there are a number of other critical reasons why this proposal is untenable.
 
There is no explanation as to how the administration came up with the figure 1.8 million, but let’s first be clear that this would more than double the number of aliens who were illegally granted temporary lawful status by the Obama administration. Advocates for providing these aliens with lawful status claimed that there was urgency to their demands because on March 5th some of these hundreds of thousands of aliens would lose their protection under DACA. However, there is certainly no urgency for more than half of the 1.8 million, the illegal aliens who did not apply to participate in DACA back before it was discontinued. Perhaps it is the case that they weren’t actually here then, but will now falsely claim that they were. Thus, without the capacity to neither interview these applicants nor conduct field investigations to seek to verify applicant information, the proposed fix for DACA would create a climate that is conducive to enabling illegally aliens to commit fraud that would go undiscovered.
 
As I recently noted, Congress must be cautious with a DACA solution, as the figure of 800,000 aliens supposedly eligible for the program is likely to balloon to 3.6 million, according to the Migration Policy Institute. There is no way to know how many illegal aliens will emerge to claim that they entered the United States prior to their 16th birthdays in order to qualify for legal status.
 
In addition, there would be no way to stop the program once 1.8 million illegal aliens were processed for lawful status.  Once started, any effort to terminate the program would undoubtedly result in lawsuits filed in every district across the United States.
 
If the Migration Policy Institute’s estimate is correct, 1.8 million would represent only half the number of illegal aliens who might apply for lawful status under DACA. If the Migration Policy Institute’s estimate is wrong and 5 million or 10 million illegal aliens show up, all of these aliens would be eligible for lawful status.
 
Furthermore, it would take years to build a wall along the U.S./Mexican border.  Until then illegal aliens could still run that border -- every day -- until that border is made secure.  And even after completed, we would have to ask, “How secure is 'secure'?”
 
It must be anticipated that as the U.S./Mexican border is made more secure, the desire of illegal aliens to gain entry into the United States will not evaporate.  These individuals will simply seek a different means of entering the United States. For example, illegal aliens will continue to enter the United States surreptitiously along our nation’s 95,000 miles of meandering coastline by stowing away on ships or simply coming ashore covertly, thereby evading the inspections process conducted at our seaports.
 
When we get into our cars to go to work or head to the mall we often listen to the traffic reports to find the best route to our destination to bypass obstruction and overcome traffic delays. Aliens will similarly seek to find the easiest way of entering the United States and it may also include committing document fraud and visa fraud. Because aliens in their 30s can file applications for this proposed program, if they claim to have entered the United States prior to they 16th birthdays, aliens could lie about their actual dates of entry. Indeed, aliens who have yet to enter the U.S. could claim to have been here for years.
 
While the media focuses on the issue of providing these illegal aliens with pathways to U.S. citizenship, the real danger to the United States is providing these illegal aliens with lawful status and official identity documents. The nexus between immigration fraud and national security was the focus of my recent article, Immigration Fraud, The Lies That Kill. This is not just my concern, it was the concern of the 9/11 Commission. 
 
The 9/11 Commission Staff Report on Terrorist Travel detailed numerous examples of instances where terrorists made use of visa and immigration benefit fraud to enter the United States also to also embed themselves in the United States.

Page 54 contained this excerpt, which emphasized the role of document fraud in the 9/11 attacks:

Although there is evidence that some land and sea border entries (of terrorists) without inspection occurred, these conspirators mainly subverted the legal entry system by entering at airports.

In doing so, they relied on a wide variety of fraudulent documents, on aliases, and on government corruption. Because terrorist operations were not suicide missions in the early to mid-1990s, once in the United States terrorists and their supporters tried to get legal immigration status that would permit them to remain here, primarily by committing serial, or repeated, immigration fraud, by claiming political asylum, and by marrying Americans. Many of these tactics would remain largely unchanged and undetected throughout the 1990s and up to the 9/11 attack.

Thus, abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity. It would remain largely unknown, since no agency of the United States government analyzed terrorist travel patterns until after 9/11. This lack of attention meant that critical opportunities to disrupt terrorist travel and, therefore, deadly terrorist operations were missed.

Another portion of the report explained how the immigration benefits system was exploited by the 9/11 terrorists and others (page 98):

Terrorists in the 1990s, as well as the September 11 hijackers, needed to find a way to stay in or embed themselves in the United States if their operational plans were to come to fruition. As already discussed, this could be accomplished legally by marrying an American citizen, achieving temporary worker status, or applying for asylum after entering. In many cases, the act of filing for an immigration benefit sufficed to permit the alien to remain in the country until the petition was adjudicated. Terrorists were free to conduct surveillance, coordinate operations, obtain and receive funding, go to school and learn English, make contacts in the United States, acquire necessary materials, and execute an attack.

None of these other issues are addressed by the proposed DACA compromise.
 
I compare the wall on the southern border with a wing on an airplane.  While an airplane without a wing won’t fly, a wing, by itself goes nowhere. Focusing only on procuring a wing like a wall on the Southern border, but not on other vulnerabilities, may result in catastrophe, as the 9/11 Commission findings demonstrate.
 
The President originally established the goal of hiring 10,000 additional agents for ICE.  He must begin that hiring process immediately.  Furthermore, as I have noted in previous articles, ICE conducts investigations into a wide variety of crimes and issues that have no relationship to immigration law violations.  These agents must be assigned purely to the enforcement of our immigration laws from within the interior of the United States, with a heavy focus on immigration fraud.
 
President Trump was elected by Americans who understand the nexus between secure borders and effectively immigration law enforcement and national security and public safety. Political compromises must not result in compromising national security or public safety.
 

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