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Terrorists Exploit our Immigration System through Fraud and Porous Borders

  • Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, an imam, had arrived on an R-1 visa for "religious workers" and masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
  • "[T]he 19 terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 used some 365 false aliases in order to create their false identities.  Further, that all 19 hijackers entered the USA through a port of entry and they do so under assumed identities, concealing their true identities, criminal backgrounds other issues that if known by the inspector at the time of entry would have served as a basis for denial of admission. Others enter with valid visas or waiver programs and then they violate their respective immigration status - this means they overstay the allotted period of time for which they were admitted, they accept employment without proper authorization, or they get arrested and are convicted of a felony." -- CIS, Testimony before the State of Maryland House of Delegates on The Proposed Issuance of Maryland State Driver's License to Illegal Aliens, February 18, 2004 -- referencing former INS Agent Michael Cutler
  • 9/11 hijackers violated numerous immigration laws before committing their terrorist acts, but none were caught.
  • Lack of a fully-operational entry/exit system enabled 9/11 hijacker Satam al Suqami to board flight 11.
  • Three Hezbollah agents were arrested at the Mexican border in 2002. They were convicted and one of them, Salim Boughader, was extradited to the U.S. for further prosecution. -- CIS, The Weaponization of Immigration, February 2008, Cato
  • Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to board a plane (with the intention of blowing it up) for the U.S. in December of 2009 with a visa, despite an ongoing investigation. In an interview with NPR, former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff confessed that, nearly 9 years after 9/11, "there isn't normally a review of visas once they've been issued." CIS' Janice Kephart blames a "travel-facilitation mentality" at the State Department and at embassies abroad.
  • Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square in 2010, exploited the immigration system in the years running up to his failed terrorist act.

Border Basics: What Is Terrorist Travel?

Watch the Video by Janice Kephart, Center for Immigration Studies

Verifying identity, authenticating travel documents, and assuring legal status to live and work in the United States have all proven their worth in improving security. Since terrorists exploit many of the same border vulnerabilities as identity thieves, drug runners, alien smugglers, and illegal aliens to enter and stay in the United States illicitly, it is imperative that the lessons learned and reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission remain on the front burner of policy development. And yet solid programs that work to expose, deter, and arrest fraud are at risk of stagnating or even being rolled back.

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National Security