When Are We Going to Get Serious About Immigration?

By Mark Krikorian, September 20, 2016

The news over the past couple of days highlights how screwed up our immigration policy is.

In response to the Minnesota attack by a Somali immigrant jihadist, Jeremy Carl asks at National Review, "But if even a small, but meaningful number of Somali immigrants join terror groups, which they most certainly do in numbers far out of proportion to their population, why do we need to bring in more?"

The importance of this question is heightened by the magnitude of the "more." We've admitted about 50,000 Somali refugees just since 2009, nearly 8,000 of them through the first 11 months of the current fiscal year (through the end of August). The UN held a refugee summit yesterday (and President Obama is hosting an after-party today) to hector the functional nations of the world to admit even more people from places like Somalia. Obama's own contribution is a pledge to admit at least 110,000 "refugees" in FY 2017 (up from 85,000 in FY 2016), which starts in about two weeks.

The jihadist in the New York area is referred to in the press as an "American of Afghan descent," which is true as far as it goes. But as a naturalized citizen, he can be stripped of his citizenship much more easily than one who was an American at birth. And yet we almost never move to denaturalize foreign-born terrorists. A paper we published a few years back started with the following observations:

  • In the past decade, dozens of naturalized U.S. citizens have been arrested and charged with a variety of serious national security-related offenses involving terrorism, spying, and theft of sensitive information and technology.
  • The federal government almost never revokes the citizenship of these naturalized citizens, even when it is clear that they concealed material facts regarding their extreme ideas or associations with terrorist groups or foreign intelligence organizations at the time they naturalized.

We've taken 2,100 more Afghan refugees so far this year.

To top it off, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security found that hundreds of foreigners from source countries of terrorism, with outstanding deportation orders, were granted citizenship. (Here's the news story; here's the complete report.) That's because they gave different names than the ones they'd given before and their fingerprints hadn't been digitized, so they were able to slip through the highly touted vetting process.

Congress gave DHS money to digitize old fingerprint records, but they used it up and apparently didn't bother asking Congress for more. It's not that the Obama administration wanted to give citizenship to bad guys; they just didn't think maintaining the integrity of the naturalization process was all that important. Instead, they spent money explaining how immigrants can sign up for welfare and suing companies that tried too hard to avoid hiring illegal aliens.

If our own government can't access its own data to vet immigrants it has already allowed in, why would anyone think we can successfully vet foreigners living in failed states?

Oh, and by the way, over the past decade, we've naturalized about 50,000 Somalis and 20,000 Afghans. But I'm sure there's nothing to worry about!