Senate Begins to Analyze Links Between Immigration and Terror

By Dan Cadman on August 17, 2015

Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the chairmen, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest and the subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights, and Federal Courts, have penned a rather remarkable letter to the attorney general and the secretaries of State and Homeland Security.

The letter, dated August 12, asks these senior administration officials to provide to them information relating to all individuals arrested over the course of approximately 13 months (July 2, 2014, through August 11, 2015) on terrorism-related charges — and, specifically with relation to immigration, to provide full and un-redacted information about those who were either aliens or naturalized citizens. To my knowledge, this is the first time since 9/11 that a governmental body has begun a systematic inquiry — albeit for only a brief timeframe of about one year — into the nexus between flawed immigration processes and the resultant admission of, and sometimes grants of citizenship to, terrorists who would do harm to the nation that adopted them, even if by their actions they have shown they didn't feel any gratitude for our "open hearts and open arms" (to use Jimmy Carter's ill-conceived phrase in initially welcoming the deluge of Cuban criminals, misfits, and asylum inmates who poured into the country during the 1980 Mariel boatlift).

That no one in the executive branch has conducted such an examination is remarkable. I have railed for quite some time about the need for a process of continuing interagency postmortems every time an alien or naturalized citizen is taken into custody on national security charges, particularly for terrorist offenses. It is obvious to even the most uninformed that there is a problem. And yet our wise, sophisticated, and overweening federal government, which has a calming platitude for every occasion — "strategic risk management" being a prime one Homeland Security uses to describe its approach to keeping the country safe — has failed to undertake anything of the sort.

It seems like a basic step to take, doesn't it? A corporation that didn't routinely do risk assessments to determine and fix weak points in its business processes would likely fail. The key difference, of course, is that they must rely on profits and shareholders. Sadly, these are assured to even the most incompetent federal executive by a hostage populace obliged to provide a continuing flow of taxpayer money, no matter how ill spent.

To begin the process, Sens. Cruz and Sessions provided the cabinet officers, as an attachment to their letter, a table containing the names of 72 individuals their staffs collected from news reports and other sources. The senators ask that names of any arrested suspects not on the list be added, and that the cabinet officers coordinate their respective departments' responses.

A word of caution: it would be easy for casual viewers of the table to attempt to do a mental cut-line of aliens and naturalized citizens, versus the native-born, based on whether the names sound sufficiently "foreign". This would be a mistake, for two reasons:

First, recall that many individuals with English-sounding surnames are in fact foreign-born, and do sometimes involve themselves in national security offenses including terrorism.

Second, and perhaps less well known, is the fact that when an individual naturalizes, he is entitled to change his name. It is the new name, selected solely by the whim of the soon-to-be citizen, that is placed on the naturalization certificate, from which flows a host of new documents: driver's license, Social Security card, you name it. Thus, we can see the likes of Daood Sayed Gilani, Pakistani, elect to become David Coleman Headley, naturalized United States citizen. Headley is now serving a sentence of 35 years in a federal penitentiary for participating in the plot that resulted in the 2008 Mumbai, India, massacre by Pakistani Islamic extremists.

But consider that even if only a third of the list proves to be foreign-born (keeping in mind that the list may not be complete), it would mean that for each month during the short 13-month timeframe the list represents approximately two individuals admitted to this country under existing immigration protocols were arrested on terrorism charges. Two per month.

What would such a table reflecting a longer timeframe suggest to any thinking person?