NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Foiling Terrorists Trying to Enter U.S. Legally

October 18, 2001

Immigration experts say the list of major international terrorists who have been legally admitted to the U.S. in recent years is "staggering." Nine of the Sept. 11 hijackers are in that category -- and three more entered legally, then overstayed their visas.

For many years government officials have discussed how to confront the problem. But only now has the full extent of the danger been appreciated.

Here are some of the suggestions being broached:

  • Greater sharing of data about foreign individuals among the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- with the coordinated information made available to those processing visa requests.
  • Better trained and more experienced individuals processing requests for visas at U.S. embassies and consulates -- responsibilities now often entrusted to young and inexperienced staffers under time pressures and heavy workloads.
  • INS inspections at U.S. airports could be transferred to airports abroad -- where there is often less pressure to process people quickly.
  • Speed up implementation of a 1996 law that mandated the creation of a database to track all entries and exits from the U.S., so that the INS can tell if someone here on a visa is still in the country or has left -- the system is not scheduled to be up and running until 2005.

One thing all these suggested reforms have in common is the need for greater funding, experts point out.

Source: Charles Oliver, "Lax U.S. Border Controls Let Some Terrorists In -- Legally," Investor's Business Daily, October 18, 2001.


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