Interior Enforcement and the Border Crisis
There is no shortage of news coverage about the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexican border, with much of the coverage focusing on the horrific conditions in which unaccompanied minors are being kept.
What is almost never discussed, however, is how the lack of interior enforcement of our immigration laws within the United States fails to deter and actually serves to encourage massive levels of illegal immigration. What is also ignored is how this lack of interior enforcement undermines national security, public safety, public health, and the jobs and wages of Americans.
Consider that if you ask most folks how many “border states” the U.S. has, you are likely to be told that there are four: California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
In reality the United States has 50 border states. Any state that lies along the northern and the southern border or along America’s 95,000 miles of coastline is also a border state, as are those states that have international airports. As I have written about before, the breakdown of the Southwest border is only the tip of the iceberg.
Meanwhile, radical Democrats are now calling for the dismantling of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Biden administration has taken the unprecedented measure of issuing an executive order prohibiting ICE agents from making warrantless arrests of illegal aliens. Given this and the Biden administration opposing other such security measures, it can truly be said that “Biden Cripples Immigration Law Enforcement” because his executive orders handcuff agents and set law violators free.
On February 18, 2021 the Washington Post reported that a “Biden memo for ICE officers points to fewer deportations and strict oversight.” According to the Post, ICE agents “will need preapproval from a senior manager before trying to deport anyone who is not a recent border crosser, a national security threat or a criminal offender with an aggravated-felony conviction.” The Biden administration expects this policy “to result in a steep drop in immigration arrests and deportations.”
In other words, with a mere stroke of his pen, Biden has virtually eliminated the statutory authority that ICE agents have to make warrantless arrests of suspected illegal aliens. This sends a clear message to the agents, that anything they do can (and likely will) be used against them.
Furthermore so-called “sanctuary” policies implemented by numerous mayors and even some governors further undermine any remaining vestiges of interior enforcement and hence undermine national security and public safety. Sanctuary states now provide driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. New York state even went so far as to block ICE and Border Patrol access to its DMV database, Cuomo’s gift to ISIS, the drug cartels, and human traffickers.
Under Biden’s policies, the Border Patrol is once again engaged in the “Catch and Release” of aliens they arrest. Upon release, these aliens head to towns and cities across the United States. Some have been told to appear for hearings years from now and some have not even been given court dates. Aliens who fail to appear for immigration hearings will have nothing to fear from immigration authorities because of the Biden executive orders and policies.
For decades the interior enforcement mission of immigration law enforcement under both Democrat and Republican administrations has been all but ignored. This has, in my judgement, been the biggest failure of the immigration system and is really a failure by design. It has suffered from an abject lack of resources that has done untold damage and, in my judgement and even in the judgement of the 9/11 Commission, contributed to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and other terror attacks mounted in the United States by international terrorists.
This lack of interior enforcement also hobbles efforts to combat human trafficking, transnational gangs, and drug trafficking organizations. ICE agents are supposed to investigate and penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. ICE agents are assigned to various multi-agency task forces such as the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, where I was assigned for the final ten years of my career with the former United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.
In November 2001, just weeks after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, I testified before the House Immigration Reform Caucus, then chaired by Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado. On December 10, 2001, he entered my prepared testimony for that hearing into the Congressional Record. The focus of that hearing, and consequently my testimony, was to explore the failures of the immigration system that contributed to the ability of the terrorists to enter the United States, embed themselves in our country, and prepare to carry out the most horrific terror attack in our nation’s history.
Among the issues that I raised was my concept of the “Immigration Enforcement Tripod.” Under this concept, the Border Patrol enforces our immigration laws between ports of entry, interdicting illegal immigration and the smuggling of contraband into the United States; the Immigration inspectors (now known as Customs and Border Protection inspectors) enforce our immigration laws at ports of entry by applying the immigration laws during the inspections process; and, finally, comprising the third leg of the enforcement tripod are the Immigration special agents (Now Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents) who enforce the immigration laws from within the interior of the United States, backing up both the Border Patrol and the CBP Inspectors by arresting aliens who evade the Border Patrol and the inspections process conducted at ports of entry by entering the United States without inspection. ICE agents are also supposed to arrest aliens who violate their terms of lawful admission into the United States.
ICE agents also conduct investigations into immigration fraud where aliens may enter into fraud marriages with U.S. citizens or lawful immigrant aliens in order to acquire lawful immigrant status or seek visas by concealing or altering material facts in their applications. The 9/11 Commission, to which I provided testimony, identified immigration fraud and visa fraud as the key methods of entry and embedding employed by not only the 9/11 hijacker terrorists, but other terrorists as well.
Immigration fraud enables aliens to circumvent measures that are designed to combat illegal immigration. The border wall that has received so much attention can be easily defeated by an item that you can place in their jacket pocket or hold in your hand: a green card.
Similarly, while so many have, over the years, asked me if mandatory E-Verify would end illegal immigration once and for all by forcing employers to stop hiring illegal aliens, the answer is that through immigration fraud, an alien who acquires a green card or other appropriate visa can legally work in the United States, enabling them to fly through the E-Verify program.
The only way to combat immigration fraud is to have an adequate number of ICE agents who have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. Today ICE has only about 6,000 agents for the entire country and most of them are engaged in non-immigration related investigations.
The official commission report, “9/11 and Terrorist Travel,” included several observations that are important to consider. Page 61 warned that “human smugglers have facilitated the travel of terrorists associated with more than a dozen extremist groups.” Page 98 observes that immigration fraud is a primary method for terrorists to remain in the U.S. after securing entry. For example, “Mahmoud Abouhalima, involved in both the World Trade Center and landmarks plots, received temporary residence under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW) program, after falsely claiming that he picked beans in Florida.” Moreover, the report warns, simple immigration benefit fraud can and has been used by terrorists to prolong their residency in the U.S. “In many cases, the act of filing for an immigration benefit sufficed to permit the alien to remain in the country until the petition was adjudicated.”
Consider how so many of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and expectations of privacy have been sliced away in the name of “national security” in the post-9/11 world while a succession of administrations have ignored the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Harry Truman understood accountability when he placed that placard on the desk in the Oval Office that read, “The Buck Stops Here!” Today it would appear that the Biden administration is obstructing the enforcement of the Immigration and Nationality Act undermining national security, public safety, public health, and in direct opposition to those critical findings and recommendations of the commission that was convened to protect us from future terrorist attacks. It needs to be held accountable.
Michael W. Cutler was a senior special agent for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.