No-brainers for keeping ISIS out
President Obama will be meeting Tuesday with congressional leaders and military advisers on his strategy for battling ISIS overseas.
Better late than never. But his plan reportedly sees it taking three years to destroy ISIS, and Obama still has said nothing about stopping jihadists from bringing their terror here. It’s up to Congress to act on this urgent issue.
I wrote last week about the need for laws to allow seizing the passports of Americans fighting for ISIS and barring them from returning, but we also need to fix legal-immigration loopholes.
Terrorists have been exploiting some of these since before 9/11, but at least one is new:
- Reverse the administration ruling that welcomes asylum seekers who’ve provided only “limited material support” to terrorists.
- Outlaw visas to “study” at unaccredited institutions, which often are nothing more than visa mills.
- Crack down on overstaying visas.
Five of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 had overstayed tourist visas; another was on a student visa.
Of course, immigration offers huge benefits to our nation. And not all terrorists are foreign-born. But these weak links in enforcement have to be closed to thwart another 9/11. That’s not anti-immigration. It’s anti-terror.
The asylum issue, unfortunately, could require a fight with the White House.
Federal law bars the granting of asylum to people with terrorist connections, but in February the administration unilaterally loosened the law to welcome asylum seekers who have provided only “limited material support” to terrorists.
Congress should reverse Obama’s dangerous new policy. There is a long history of asylum seekers killing Americans. The parents of the Boston Marathon bombers came here on tourist visas and then sought asylum.
In 1993, Pakistani asylum-seeker Ramzi Yousef bombed the World Trade Center. Another Pakistani asylum-seeker, Mir Aimal Kansi, gunned down two CIA agents in Virginia in 1993.
John Q. Public has nothing to gain, and everything — including his safety — to lose from lax asylum rules.
One little-noted section of the “comprehensive” (meaning unread) immigration bill that passed the Senate last year would’ve eased the asylum process. After the bill died in the House, the president acted on his own in February.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) supported lifting the restrictions on asylum seekers, because they “resulted in deserving refugees and asylees being barred” when they may have only cooperated with terrorists under pressure. Barring some of these people may be harsh, but how are you going to investigate their claims?
The other two fixes should be no-brainers.
The 9/11 Commission urged Congress to tighten student visas, citing the hijacker who flew Flight 77 into the Pentagon after he entered the United States on a student visa but never showed up for school.
Since 9/11, another 26 student-visa holders have been arrested on terrorist-related charges.
Yet Homeland Security has allowed the number of student visas to more than double since 2003. The agency admits that at least 58,000 overstayed their visas in the past year, and it has lost track entirely of about 6,000 overstayers.
A big part of the problem, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) points out, is for-profit unaccredited schools that literally sell visas to would-be “students” claiming to study everything from horseshoeing to hair-braiding. Coburn says these schools “are using the system to bring people in, collect money and not educate them at all.”
It’s their gain, and John Q. Public’s risk. The 9/11 attacks showed that visa overstaying is a big danger to the nation.
Yet the General Accountability Office reported last year that enforcement of temporary visa deadlines is so sloppy, the Department of Homeland Security won’t even estimate how many overstayers are in the country now.
Indeed, the federal government hasn’t offered an estimate since 1994, pleading a lack of reliable data. But the number is likely over 1 million.
In February 2012, the FBI arrested Amine El Khalifim; he was wearing an explosive-packed suicide vest and headed to blow up the US Capitol. He’d been in the country 12 years, long after his visa expired.
At a July 29 hearing, Congress was warned that terror attacks are a clear and present danger here at home. Despite the president’s unwillingness to focus on it, Congress must act to fix this danger right under our noses.