Last Friday, Amine El Khalifi, a 29-year-old Moroccan citizen, was arrested by FBI agents as he made his way to the U.S. Capitol for what he believed would be a suicide mission. Thankfully, El Khalifi had been under surveillance by the FBI and he never got close to achieving his goals of conducting an attack on American landmarks and innocent civilians. However, El Khalifi’s arrest once again shines the light on a significant issue that seems to be ignored by many lawmakers in this country. El Khalifi is an illegal alien who has been living in the United States unlawfully since 1999 after his visa expired.
According to a Center for Immigration Studies report conducted by Janice Kephart, between the early 1990s and 2004, 59 of the 94 foreign-born terrorists who operated in the United States had "committed immigration fraud prior to or in conjunction with taking part in terrorist activity." Six of those foreign-born terrorists included in the report were 9/11 hijackers.
The 9/11 Commission Report highlighted the importance of preventing individuals from entering the country and remaining undetected.
The challenge for national security in an age of terrorism is to prevent the very few people who may pose overwhelming risks from entering or remaining in the United States undetected.
-- 9/11 Commission Report
There are 11 million illegal aliens in the country, and our government has shown little regard for the “undetected” persons in this country. Granted, El Khalifi was eventually detected, but it’s not feasible to detect everyone. Yes, I know… most of the 11 million illegal aliens living in the United States are not here to commit any terrorist attack or crimes. But I also know that of the 11 million people here illegally, some of them hope to carry out an attack against the United States.
Many people in this country have the unfortunate misconception that the term "illegal alien" refers to a person of Hispanic heritage who crossed our Southern border illegally. That is so far from reality. Thousands of "Other than Mexican" (OTM) persons, many from "terrorist countries", are detained at the Southwest border each year. With that said, how many OTM persons do you think are not arrested? In addition, 40% of the illegal aliens in the United States right now are individuals who entered this country on a visa and overstayed the time allocated by their visa - just like El Khalifi.
To put things in perspective, there are millions of people here illegally and thousands of which hail from countries known for producing terrorists. During testimony last week before the Homeland Security Committee, United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano made statements in regards to our country’s entry/exit system. The Secretary said the entry portion was close while the exit (important for identifying visa overstays) was a very expensive process.
The Secretary continued by saying, "we have biographical data that works just as well.”
Sorry to burst the bubble here, but the “biographical data” is clearly not working when you have illegal aliens plotting to blow up the U.S Capitol. This country needs a functional entry/exit system that works and prevents visa overstayers from staying in the country illegally.
The days of fighting in the trenches and battles composed of men standing in lines firing at one another in open fields are long gone. Our enemies are no longer identified with a country, rather a cause. Our enemies can now integrate themselves within our communities and can show no signs of harm. For those who enter, or remain in the country undetected, the goal is to make it too difficult for them to continue going undetected.
As more details come out on El Khalifi, it will be interesting to see if, and where, he worked? How did he manage to stay in the country illegally for so long? As of now, many states like Virginia, where El Khalifi resided, do not require employers to use E-Verify, an internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States when hiring new employees. Also, Illegal aliens can rent homes mostly anywhere in the country, so the idea of El Khalifi remaining in the country for so long should not come as a surprise to anyone.
El Khalifi’s arrest is a great thing. It shows the strength of our country’s counter-terrorism and the great job being done by the men and women who are responsible for protecting our homeland. But let’s not get complacent. There are many people out there just like El Khalifi, who are out there waiting for the opportunity to strike. Over time, someone is destined to fall through cracks and strike this country, just as they did on 9/11. If that happens, we should at least know we did everything we could to stop it. As of today, we simply cannot say we are doing everything we can.
ELIANO YOUNES is an Assistant for the Content and Activism team. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and began working at NumbersUSA shortly after his graduation in May of 2011. He studied political science and homeland security.