Our nation’s borders are its first and last line of defense against international terrorists and transnational criminals. Border security is national security.
This commonsense notion was embraced by the 9/11 Commission. The preface of the official report, “9/11 and Terrorist Travel – Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” begins with the following paragraph:
“It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country. Yet prior to September 11, while there were efforts to enhance border security, no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed, even after 19 hijackers demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. visa and gaining admission into the United States, border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy. We believe, for reasons we discuss in the following pages, that it must be made one.”
As deadly terror attacks occur in Europe and elsewhere around the world, understandably concerns increase about our vulnerability to terrorism here.
On May 22 Manchester, England, was the site of yet another heinous attack — this time young girls were targeted at a concert. The terrorist, Salman Abedi was a native-born British citizen who could have sought entry into the United States without a visa.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its corporate friends in the hotel, travel, hospitality and manufacturing industries formed an unholy alliance, the Discover America Partnership that, nevertheless, continues to lobby for an expansion of the dangerous Visa Waiver Program, ignoring that ISIS, al-Qaeda, and transnational criminals have already “discovered” America.
That partnership opposes any efforts to more effectively scrutinize foreign visitors, pushing for the admission of ever more foreign tourists, foreign students and, of course, huge increases in exploitable foreign workers to displace Americans.
They are far more concerned with head counts on airliners than body counts at the morgue.
A while back I wrote an article, “Visa Waiver Program Endangers Our Safety And Security” in which I included a list of six ways an effectively administered visa program helps combat terrorism and protect America and Americans. All of those important benefits are utterly lost when aliens enter the U.S. under Visa Waiver Program.
For example, the information and biometrics submitted in a visa application can be essential to conducting investigations into terrorists and criminals. Aliens who commit fraud, in completing that application, face a maximum of 25 years in prison, if the purpose for applying for the visa was to further a terror goal.
While most discussions about the borders of the United States focus on the U.S.-Mexican border, in reality our nation has fifty border states. Any state that lies along our northern border, has access to our nation’s meandering 95,000 miles of coastline, or has an international airport are also “border states.”
Consider this sentence from page 54 of the above-cited report:
“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.”
On September 11, 2001, 26 countries participated in the Visa Waiver Program. Today that list has grown to 38 countries.
After the terror attacks of 9/11 that entire program should have been terminated.
Concerns about the Visa Waiver Program are not new and actually pre-date the terror attacks of 9/11.
On February 24, 1998, two days short of the fifth anniversary of the World Trade Center bombing that left six death, more than one thousand injured and resulted in approximately a half-billon dollars in damages, The Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information conducted a hearing on the topic, “Foreign terrorists in America: five years after the World Trade Center.”
At the hearing Senator Feinstein raised a number of questions including the wisdom of issuing visas to citizens of countries that sponsor terrorism and the need to reconsider the Visa Waiver (Pilot) Program.
On May 11, 2006, I testified before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on International Relations on the topic, “Visa Overstays: Can We Bar The Terrorist Door?”
On June 6, 2016, the GAO issued a report, “VISA WAIVER PROGRAM: DHS Should Take Steps to Ensure Timeliness of Information Needed to Protect U.S. National Security.” The title of that report was understated and bland. The Washington Free Beacon’s article about the GAO report had a more candid title, “Oversight Report: Foreign Nations Still Not Sharing Info on Terrorists With U.S.- DHS failing to report security gaps to Congress.”
Memo to the Discover America Partnership: In considering the balance sheet it is imperative to remember that human lives are priceless.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in NewsMax.