Immigration and Terrorism

The 9/11 event had been one of the biggest turning point of the lives of the US citizens. Five years had already passed but the event had been deeply etched in the heart of every people. It made the countrymen think and realized why this had easily happened and made them ask if immigration law in the United States had been so laxed. The events showed widespread terrorist violations of immigration laws. The lax immigration system causes danger in the United States, not just in terms of who is allowed to enter the country, but also how terrorists used the weaknesses of the system to remain in the country.

What requires emphasis is the ease with which terrorists have moved through U. S. border security and obtained significant immigration benefits such as naturalization. The security gaps that existed then still, in many instances, exist today. Janice L. Kephart (2005) stressed that Terrorists have used just about every means possible to enter the United States, from acquiring legitimate passports and visas for entry to stowing away illegally on an Algerian gas tanker.

This study reviews 94 individuals closely affiliated with terror organizations, whether through overt terrorist acts, connections to criminal activity in support of terror, or terror financing. Most have been convicted or indicted. It summarizes how these terrorists have successfully sought legal immigration benefits through fraudulent means and the legal action (if any) taken against them. This report only includes the six 9/11 hijackers who abused immigration benefits to stay in the United States.

With approximately 1. 5 million legal and illegal immigrants entering annually — equivalent to the population of Philadelphia — the United States has the highest number of foreign-born residents ever. As a percentage of the population, these 33 million, strengthened continuously, will soon surpass a level not seen since the first decade of the 20th century. Within a few years they will constitute the largest percentage of foreign-born in U. S. history. (Steinlight, 2004)

What’s strange still in the immigration system is the visa lottery where there is a system where people send in a postcard, which is now done electronically, and then names are drawn out of a hat, with 50,000 winners each year given permanent residence in the United States. This system draws in a lot of problems not only administratively; it also creates a great opportunity foe illegal immigrants and terrorists. One example of this visa lottery is Hesham Mohamed Hedayet’s case.

He murdered Victoria Hen and Yaakov Aminov at Los Angeles International Airport on July 4, 2002. Mr. Hedayet overstayed a tourist visa in 1992 and before his tourist visa expired, he applied for asylum and then continued to live in the United States for a number of years as an illegal alien after his visa expired. Even after his asylum application was turned down in 1996, Mr. Hedayet stayed and lived here as an illegal alien.

His wife continued to play the visa lottery with the hope that they would eventually be able to win a visa, which she eventually won, allowing her, her husband, and children to get a green card. The existence of the lottery gave the Hedayets a realistic hope of eventually getting a green card, if they just played it long enough. They really had no other choice, because they had no family member who could sponsor them or any specialized skills allowing them to qualify for employment-based immigration and, of course, Hedayet did not qualify for asylum.

If it had not been for the lottery, Hedayet and his family might have given up and gone home. The lottery gives hope to countless other illegal aliens that one day they too will win the lottery and be able to stay in this country. The lottery’s very existence tells hundreds of thousand of other people living here illegally, who have no realistic means of ever getting a green card, which they should not go home because one day they too may win the visa lottery, if they play it long enough. (Camarota, 2004)

On the other hand, President George Bush urges countrymen to remain calm and develop a harmonious, respectful and rational discussion about the issues of terrorism and immigration. Jane Morse (2006) had emphasized what the president had said during a press conference in Orange County, California that it is important to discuss immigration issues in a respectful way that recognizes USA as a nation of immigrants, that have had a grand tradition in this country of welcoming people into the society, and that it is a society that is able to take the new arrivals, and they become equally American.

According to Bush, “Immigration has helped reinvigorate the soul of America. To make sure immigration laws work, you got to enforce the laws on the books. (…) You can be a nation of law and a compassionate nation at the same time. Immigration reform would undercut the human smuggling industry with a rational policy that would treat people with respect. (…) one thing we cannot lose sight of is that we're talking about human beings, decent human beings that need to be treated with respect.

Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It's just not going to work. People should be allowed to work in the United States on a temporary basis as defined by Congress. A person should never be granted automatic citizenship. Those who break the law by entering the United States illegally should pay a penalty and go to the back of the line to enter the United States legally.

It is important, especially for America’s leadership, "to remember that we're a nation of law, a welcoming nation, a nation that honors people's traditions no matter where they're from, because we got confidence in the capacity of our nation to make us all Americans, one nation, under God,” With Al Qaeda terrorists using USA’s own infrastructure to create the biggest and cost efficient attack, should we still consider the immigration policies as a representation of USA being a welcoming nation and a nation that honors people's traditions or is it simply a gateway for terrorism?