- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2003

The American public owes a debt of gratitude to Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, and Sens. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican and Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, for calling attention to yet another serious problem with U.S. immigration policy: a loophole which is blocking the deportation of suspected terrorists once the State Department has revoked their visas. The Washington Times reported Thursday that under current rules, a visa revocation does not require the subject to leave the United States and does not constitute a reason for deportation.

Homeland Security Department officials have bluntly informed Congress that they lack the authority to deport immigrants holding revoked visas. The General Accounting Office reported in June that 30 individuals who have had their visas revoked on grounds of engaging in terrorism remain in the United States undetected. In June, the House Government Reform subcomittee on national security chaired by Mr. Shays held a hearing on the issue, and last month, the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and border security, chaired by Mr. Chambliss, held hearings of its own. Catherine Barry, managing director of the State Department’s visa services office, told senators that State was studying ways to fix the problem.

After hearing officials from State, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security describe a hodgepodge of contradictory analyses and bureaucratic procedures for handling individuals who have had their visas revoked, Messrs. Chambliss and Shays, together with Sen. Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on July 22 urging that immediate action be taken. “In all honesty, members left both hearings with their questions unanswered and frustrated that officials are not getting the job done,” the lawmakers wrote. “The visa revocation certificate the State Department forwards to Homeland Security does not give any legal grounds to remove the revoked visa-holder. The language on the current certificate is a legal anachronism, a nicety of a simpler age. It must be addressed.”

In their letter, Messrs. Chambliss, Shays and Grassley offered Messrs. Powell and Ridge a number of options: If an interdepartmental memorandum of understanding is needed, the departments should finish it. If a legal opinion is necessary to correct the situation, the State and Homeland Security Departments should provide it. If a change in the law is required, then those departments should recommend legislative language to Congress, so action can be taken right away.

The above suggestions from Capitol Hill make a great deal of sense. The worst course of action would be further bureaucratic delay and inertia.

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