Terrorism and Immigration Policy

October 5, 2001

It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago one of the big issues facing Congress and the president was immigration policy. Obviously the events of September 11 have superceded these discussions, but it is also a relevant discussion in light of the terrorist attack on America.

I think it is apparent to everyone that foreign-born terrorists threaten our system of government and way of life. They take advantage of our generous immigration laws which invite future attacks.

In the past, the debate about immigration centered on whether our immigration laws allowed Latin-born immigrants to take American jobs or abuse the welfare system. Many proposed providing amnesty to illegal aliens. Although that proposal is probably been shelved indefinitely because of the attacks on America, other issues need to be addressed.

While we have focused due attention on our border with Mexico, we have neglected our border with Canada. There is now evidence that at least two of the terrorists entered illegally into this country from Canada. And when Arab-born aliens did come into this country, the federal government failed to track their whereabouts.

Of greater concern is the sad fact that most of the terrorists who attacked America on September 11 entered this country legally. They were holding either temporary visas or student visas! Once they got into this country they were able to blend into the rest of society until the day they attacked us.

In 1998 (the most recent year for statistics), the United States issues more than 30 million visas to foreign nationals. It is estimated that between 3 and 5 million still remain in the country after their visas expired. These so-called "overstays" account for nearly 40% of all illegal immigrants.

So what should we do? Columnists like Gary Bauer and Linda Chavez as well as various political leaders like Attorney General John Ashcroft and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) have put forward a number of recommendations. Here are some initial actions we should take:

  1. Monitor foreign visitors who enter this country on temporary or student visas. Congress passed a law in 1996 to do that very thing. But the law was set aside last year during the Clinton administration. We need to keep tabs on foreigners in this country who could be potential terrorists!
  2. Require all aliens to register with the United States once a year. We used to require foreign nationals to do this but abandoned this requirement during the 1980s. It's time to reestablish this requirement.
  3. Require all aliens to notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) whenever they change their address. The two requirements will allow the government to be more effective in tracking aliens and monitoring their activities.
  4. Grant the INS authority to detain and deport immigrants associated with terrorists or terrorist organizations. The Attorney General has already submitted this legislation to Congress.
  5. Demand that governmental agencies share information. Although one of the terrorists (Mohammed Atta) was on a FBI terrorism watch list, he was still able to obtain a pilot's license from the Federal Aviation Administration! Other suspected terrorists (now in custody) apparently obtained licenses to drive trucks with hazardous materials. Government agencies need to warn each other of suspected terrorists rather than keep the information to themselves.
  6. Suspend all student visas for six months until the INS can institute background checks and a tracking system to monitor their movements and ensure they leave when their time expires. Senator Feinstein has submitted this INS requirement.
  7. Drop the idea of providing blanket amnesty for illegal aliens. This was a bad idea when proposed before September 11. It is an even worse idea now that America is under attack.

© 2001 Probe Ministries