Monday, April 10, 2006

Provisions in past bills that have given amnesty to illegal aliens have been used by at least five terrorists to stay in the U.S. while planning or committing deadly attacks, a fact that critics say proves their contention that the “path to earned citizenship” in immigration bills now before the Senate constitutes a security risk.

“We are just asking for trouble, having a program like that at the moment,” said Janice Kephart, former counsel to the September 11 commission and a private-sector border security consultant.

When senators return from their two-week recess later this month, they are expected to resume work on a proposal to craft a new temporary-worker program and what the bill’s authors call “a path to earned citizenship” for workers already in the country illegally.

Critics such as Ms. Kephart say the proposal is an amnesty in all but name and point out how foreign terrorists have exploited comparable programs in the past.

Five cases are cited — three of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers; one of the men involved in the related terror plot aimed that year at New York landmarks; and Mir Aimal Kasi, the Pakistani who killed two CIA employees in a 1993 shooting outside the agency’s Langley headquarters.

All five applied for amnesty under a 1986 immigration reform law, according to the September 11 commission’s findings and Ms. Kephart’s subsequent research.

Although only two of these applications were granted, Kasi and the two other unsuccessful aspirants used their pending applications to string out their presence in the United States long enough to carry out their terror plans.

Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican, last week highlighted the case of Mahmud Abouhalima, one of the two World Trade Center bombers who was granted what the lawmaker called a “rubber-stamped” amnesty.

“Proponents of this controversial proposal should understand the concerns that many of us have on the security front,” said Mr. Royce, chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on international terrorism and nonproliferation.

At a subcommittee hearing at which Ms. Kephart also testified, Mr. Royce called U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that processes and adjudicates immigration benefits, a “deeply flawed” organization.

“And hoisting this new demand of millions of applicants [for earned citizenship] onto this flawed agency would break its back and dangerously compromise our national security,” Mr. Royce said.

But supporters of the compromise bill say that enacting it — and regularizing the 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens already in the country — would have security benefits that outweigh any risks.

“Given that you are talking about people already in the country,” said C. Stewart Verdery Jr., a former senior Department of Homeland Security official, “if you’re able to convince would-be terrorists to come forward and undergo fingerprint and background checks as a way of regularizing their status, that is better than having them stay in the shadows and basically hoping that they are encountered at random by law enforcement.”

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