For many of us, the recent announcement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the alleged mastermind of the September 11th attacks - will be tried in Manhattan has brought back painful memories of the worst attack on United States soil in history. These memories are a reminder of how vulnerable our country can be to its enemies. What many failed to address in the wake of the 9/11 attacks was how closely tied immigration is to our national security.
An immigration policy that allows so many to enter the United States illegally, or fails to provide the means to track those who overstay visas, only encourages groups who desire to come to our country and harm us. This video, “The Broken Door,” addresses how groups like Al Qaeda are able to operate within our country under the radar of the United States government, often due to lack of enforcement of immigration laws.
Five of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were in violation of our immigration laws. They were illegally present in our country, and could have been detained or removed. Four of those hijackers had been pulled over for traffic violations and were in contact with police who did not check their immigration status with the federal government.
Nawaf al Hazmi, one of the Flight 77 hijackers, was in the United States on a short-term business visa that he overstayed. As of 1/16/01 he was unlawfully present in the United States- yet he was able to obtain a driver’s license from the state of Florida and an ID card from the state of Virginia in June and August of that year.
Hani Hanjour, the pilot of Flight 77, entered the United States in December of 2000 on a student visa - though he never enrolled in school - making his entire presence in our country unlawful. He was still able to obtain ID cards from the state of Virginia and Maryland in August and September of 2001.
Our government needs to enforce its immigration laws. We need to know who is coming into our country and monitor where they are once present.
The Visa Waiver program provides another major terrorist loophole- for many years allowing anyone from a select number of countries to enter the United States without obtaining a visa. Once inside, many are able to continue to live in our country, knowing it is unlikely their immigration status will be checked.
The real question is, why does our government choose not to fully enforce such important laws? Why do we allow so many, whose backgrounds we do not know, to enter our country and reside in it illegally?
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, “Failure of an alien intending to remain in the United States for thirty days or longer to apply for registration and fingerprinting during that thirty-day period is a deportable offense.” Why are we not following through on laws in place to protect our national security?
The question we need to ask is, what fear do those who come to our country with the intent to do us harm face? Fear that it’s likely they will be found to be illegally residing in the United States? Not likely. Fear that if caught to be in violation of our immigration laws, it will be reported to the federal government and they will face deportation? Probably not. Our government needs to wake up and realize that the safety of American citizens and legal immigrants should be our top priority, and an important part of ensuring that safety is enforcing our immigration laws.
JENNY MAGYARI is the Assistant to the President at NumbersUSA