Tags: Fix | the | Immigration | Laws

Fix the Immigration Laws

Wednesday, 01 May 2002 12:00 AM

At long last the House and the Senate are considering legislation to reform the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). But the central proposal of the proposed reform - the creation of a separate agency charged with enforcement functions - will give us only a new agency with a new set of initials to blame and will do little to address the porous process by which dangerous people enter the United States easily.

The fault lies not just in the bureaucracy but in the legal framework that governs it and the lack of emphasis on enforcing what laws now exist.

The fundamental defect starts with the astonishing fact that the word "deportation" is a fiction. Three hundred thousand people ordered deported still live in the United States.

Far from fugitives, they usually live quite openly with little fear of the system that ordered them to leave. Often they simply walked out of the courtroom after the order was issued, laughing under their breath.

The links between terrorism and the INS are clear for all to see. According to the nonpartisan Center for Immigration Studies, 115,000 people from Middle Eastern countries live in the United States illegally. In October and November 2001, as bodies were being dragged from the World Trade Center wreckage, 7,000 new visas were issued to men from nations in which al-Qaeda is active.

Saudi Arabians who want to travel to the U.S. can get visas without even being interviewed by the State Department and can get documents that permit their entry at "drop boxes" near the U.S. Consulates or from their travel agents. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers got visas in Saudi Arabia. When the visas expire, it's no big deal. About 350,000 people have overstayed their visas and continue to live here illegally.

The other gaping hole in our border protections is the student visa program. With over 600,000 students now studying in the United States, it represents an easy way to get here and stay illegally. The INS routinely takes six months to respond to notifications from university registrars that foreign students are not attending classes.

The essential changes in the law and enforcement we need are quite clear:

Remember that we had four shots at Mohammed Atta before he flew a plane into the Trade Center.

He was in INS custody because he tried to enter the U.S. on an improper visa, but we let him go. He was arrested by a traffic cop for driving without a valid license, but we let him go. He failed to show up in court to answer the charges of driving without a license, but we didn't go out and look for him. Then he landed a plane illegally at the Miami airport, but we let him go again.

If FBI and Motor Vehicle and INS computers interfaced, we would know that we were dealing with a potential terrorist and would have held on to him.

To do better next time, we need Congress to act now.

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At long last the House and the Senate are considering legislation to reform the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). But the central proposal of the proposed reform - the creation of a separate agency charged with enforcement functions - will give us only a new...
Fix,the,Immigration,Laws
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2002-00-01
Wednesday, 01 May 2002 12:00 AM
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