Moving Beyond the 9/11 Staff Report on Terrorist Travel
This report covers the immigration histories of 94 terrorists who operated in the United States between the early 1990s and 2004, including six of the September 11th hijackers. Other than the hijackers, almost all of these individuals have been indicted or convicted for their crimes. The report builds on prior work done by 9/11 Commission and the Center for Immigration Studies, providing more information than has been previously been made public.
The findings show widespread terrorist violations of immigration laws. The report highlights the danger of our lax immigration system, not just in terms of who is allowed in, but also how terrorists, once in the country, used weaknesses in the system to remain here. The report makes clear that strict enforcement of immigration law – at American consulates overseas, at ports of entry, and within the United States – must be an integral part of our efforts to prevent future attacks on U.S. soil.
Among the findings:
Of the 94 foreign-born terrorists who operated in the United States, the study found that about two-thirds (59) committed immigration fraud prior to or in conjunction with taking part in terrorist activity.
Of the 59 terrorists who violated the law, many committed multiple immigration violations – 79 instances in all.
Temporary visas were a common means of entering; 18 terrorists had student visas and another four had applications approved to study in the United States. At least 17 terrorists used a visitor visa—either tourist (B2) or business (B1).
There were 11 instances of passport fraud and 10 instances of visa fraud; in total 34 individuals were charged with making false statements to an immigration official.
In at least 13 instances, terrorists overstayed their temporary visas.
In 17 instances, terrorists claimed to lack proper travel documents and applied for asylum, often at a port of entry.
Fraud was used not only to gain entry into the United States, but also to remain, or “embed, “ in the country.
Seven terrorists were indicted for acquiring or using various forms of fake identification, including driver’s licenses, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and immigration arrival records.
Once in the United States, 23 terrorists became legal permanent residents, often by marrying an American. There were at least nine sham marriages.
In total, 21 foreign terrorists became naturalized U.S. citizens.
Nearly four years after Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. government still lacks the commitment and the political will to enforce its immigration laws on a day-to-day basis, immigration specialists and politicians said Friday.
"Not only do the complexities and gray areas of immigration law make it difficult to enforce, but there's been a severe lack of resources and policies over the last decade to deal with them effectively," said Janice Kephart, a former counsel to the 9/11 Commission at a conference titled "Illegal Immigration: Its Impact on America" at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Critical intelligence on terrorist travel indicators is still not being declassified or distributed to front-line officers, Kephart said. Few in the ranks of immigration enforcement have the security clearances necessary to collect information now available on terrorist travel.
While there are only about 2,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to handle interior immigration law enforcement, there are about 700,000 state and local police officers that can help them do that job, said Kris Kobach, a professor at the University of Missouri -- Kansas City School of Law.
Local police officers should be made aware of their inherent legal authority to make immigration arrests if they have probable cause that an individual standing in front of them is present in the country illegally, he said.
Second, local law enforcement agencies should take advantage of a 1996 provision of the law to negotiate agreements with federal officials to be trained to receive the enforcement powers that federal officials have.
Kobach said he was recently dismayed to learn that ICE was intending to scale back the authority so local governments could only apply these enforcement powers in jails.
Third, it would implement departure controls to track who was overstaying their visas and list violators in a national criminal database that any law enforcement officer could access.
"There are many good policy ideas sitting in in-boxes all over the Department of Homeland Security today, but what is missing in many cases, is political will," he said.
"We have to be aware that this war on the border was started inside this country by the same radicals who are sabotaging the war in Iraq," he said. "They are communists. They are Anti-American."
He called two recent events "seismic shifts" in the immigration debate, the passage of Prop. 200 in Arizona, which denies social service benefits and the ability to vote to illegal immigrants, and the the creation of the Minuteman Project, a civilian border watch group that called attention to the flow of illegal immigration.
Outside the event, about 20 protesters from the "La Tierra es de Todos" coalition, or the Land is for Everyone, chanted, "Minutemen, KKK, Nazi scum, go away."
Protester William Figueroa of Pasadena said he was there to protest Tancredo and Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, who also spoke at the event.
Figueroa said the anti-illegal immigrant movement wants to blame the country's economic problems on immigrants, when the government is spending billions in Iraq.
"The money is disappearing," he said. "It's going straight there."