MAY 31, 2013
Nearly a dozen years after the devastation of 9/11 the U.S. government still hasn’t found a way to keep track of foreigners who overstay their visa, including hundreds considered by authorities to be national security threats.
Have we learned nothing from the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history? Over the years a number of federal audits have outlined the government’s failure to keep proper control of foreign nationals who overstay their visa, like several of the Islamic terrorists who slammed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. You’d think that would have jolted the feds into developing an efficient system to avoid a repeat.
Instead, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the monstrous agency concocted to protect the nation from another terrorist attack, is still struggling to devise an efficient system to assure foreigners who enter leave when they are supposed to. As a result DHS has lost track of more than 1 million foreign nationals who came to the U.S. with a temporary visa but didn’t leave when it expired, according to a federal audit released this month.
It gets better. Around 266 are potentially dangerous foreign nationals who “could pose national security or public safety concerns,” according to the director of Homeland Security and Justice for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress. The director recently addressed the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security and her testimony is featured in the GAO’s latest report, which is linked above.
Federal law required the government to have a biometric exit system at air and seaports to track foreign nationals long before the 2001 terrorist attacks, though it has never materialized. Year after year authorities get blasted for failing to create an efficient system, but nothing seems to come of all the embarrassing probes and reports. In fact, this latest GAO report says “DHS continues to face challenges in reporting reliable overstay rates.”
It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. As we approach the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, our government still can’t adequately protect us from foreign nationals who exploit a perpetually defective visa system. The GAO’s Homeland Security and Justice director told Congress this month that most visa overstays are likely motivated by economic opportunities to stay in the U.S. beyond their authorized period of admission. However, she reminded lawmakers that “overstays could pose homeland security concerns—for example 5 of the 19 September 11, 2001 hijackers were overstays.”
This is hardly the first time we hear this. In fact, the GAO has estimated that nearly half of the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants actually entered the U.S. legally but overstayed their visa. Clearly, this creates a national security threat. This was documented in a 2011 GAO probe which found that dozens of foreigners convicted of terrorism since the 2001 attacks had actually overstayed their visas because DHS only processes around half of the potential overstays it detects.
On a related matter, DHS also fails miserably to regulate foreign student visas, which is just as dangerous though the numbers are lower. Considering that two of the 9/11 pilots, the would-be Wall Street bomber and the Times Square bomber exploited the freewheeling student visa program to enter the country, this is an outrage. You can read all about that in a frightening report published earlier this year a nonpartisan research organization dedicated to studying both legal and illegal immigration.
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