Keeping the Homeland SAFE and Secure

By W.D. Reasoner on July 24, 2013

In prior blogs, I've been discussing the strengths of the "Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act", an immigration bill pending in the House of Representatives as H.R. 2278, including its commitment to legitimate interior enforcement as well as border initiatives, and the framework it establishes for improved federal-state-local cooperation where immigration law and policy are concerned.

The bill also takes a fresh look at national security and terrorism through the lens of our immigration laws — something that is long overdue in my opinion.

As the Department of Homeland Security website tells us, "[T]he DHS seal was created in 2003 to symbolize the Department's mission of preventing attacks and protecting Americans on land, sea, and air." Given the history of multiple near misses in recent years, involving aliens attempting to engage in terrorist attacks within the United States, culminating in the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing, I would say that DHS's track record is mediocre at best.

Part of the reason for this can be found in the current climate promoted by open borders and amnesty advocates — one apparently embraced by this administration — which is dismissive of the notion that there is any nexus between immigration issues and national security. They do not appear to be willing to learn history's hard lessons in that regard, and are content instead to mouth platitudes about "risk management" with no real commitment to examining the policies and practices that continue to result in the granting of immigration benefits to individuals who do not embrace American values, and in some instances actively despise them and work to do our citizens harm through acts of terror.

Title II of the SAFE Act is dedicated entirely to national security legislation as it relates to immigration and, equally important, naturalization. Here's a summary:

  • Section 201 begins by ensuring that aliens involved in espionage or terrorism will not receive important benefits such as asylum, cancellation of removal, or voluntary departure; and also ensures that there are no restrictions on the designation of countries to which dangerous spies or terrorists who pose a threat to the United States may be removed.

    The potential scale of the problem of aliens who pose security threats being granted asylum, refugee status, or other benefits is huge: In the decade from federal FY 2001 through 2010, over 2.5 million aliens were admitted to the United States from a small list of just 16 nations that are troubled by internal insurgencies or Islamic extremist groups willing to export their hate whenever and wherever they can — and that list of nations is by no means exhaustive.

  • Section 202 provides that no alien who has been determined by the DHS Secretary or the Attorney General to have been involved in espionage or terrorist activities can be found to have good moral character for purposes of granting various waivers, benefits, or relief from removal.

  • Section 203 bars aliens who have been involved in espionage or terrorist activities from being naturalized into United States citizenship and prohibits aliens from seeking to force naturalization through writs in the courts while any action is pending to remove the alien, or to rescind or revoke his permanent resident status. Importantly, it also prohibits such aliens from petitioning for others to be admitted to the United States while any action to remove or denaturalize is pending. Finally, it also limits the basis for review in habeas corpus actions brought by aliens suspected of espionage or terrorism activities.

  • Section 204 streamlines the methods by which the government may bring actions to denaturalize individuals previously admitted to citizenship who participate in acts against the national security on a nunc pro tunc basis because such acts reveal that the individual was not truly attached to the principles of the Constitution at the time he was naturalized.

    This provision is important because 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, and 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.

  • Section 205 opens up the previously confidential files of individuals who were legalized under the provisions of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (you know, the one with an amnesty that was going to end all future amnesties and give us comprehensive border control and immigration reform) so that they are available for Census analyses, as well as for terrorism, espionage/intelligence, and national security investigations. Hard to believe that, for all these years, those files have been closed for such purposes, isn't it? Guess what? The Senate immigration "reform" bill would make that same mistake all over again.

  • And, finally, Section 206 would prohibit both executive and judicial bodies from ordering the adjudication or granting of any claims under the immigration and naturalization laws until full background checks have been conducted and satisfactory results obtained.

The SAFE Act will not, of course, change the fundamental indifference exhibited by current DHS leaders where the nexus of immigration and homeland security is concerned. No legislation, in and of itself, can do that.

But what it can do, and does, is to plug the holes and bridge the gaps in the existing legal and regulatory structure that have been revealed in the years since DHS's creation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and to make it increasingly difficult for executive branch officials to circumvent, ignore, shortcut, or find ways around the corners of the law that in the recent past have permitted aliens involved in national security offenses to take advantage of our immigration and naturalization laws.