Europe’s Migrant Crisis Poses High Risk to US National Security via the Visa Waiver Program

The massive influx of largely unchecked Muslim migrants into Europe poses a huge security risk to the continent. But, Europe’s security problems have the potential of migrating to the US, by way of the VISA Waiver Program (VWP). The program allows residents from 38 countries to travel to the US without a visa. Investors Business Daily describes the Visa Waiver Program as one that could “become the Achilles heel” of homeland security if it’s not reined in. The already controversial program allows travelers from Germany and other countries accepting millions of Muslim migrants to avoid visa background checks.

What is alarming to many is apparently not causing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to lose any sleep. Merkel insists there’s not a jihadist among them. Others see things differently–for example, leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Muhammad Ayed. Ayed has indicated that the true mission of this intercontinental pilgrimage is to establish a “caliphate,” a goal which will be aided by hundreds of Saudi-built mosques. According to The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Ayed told a Muslim crowd, “Germany is not a compassionate country.” Ayed also said that Germany should be exploited. He continued by calling attention to Europeans’ low fertility rate and urged the migrants to outbreed them.

The VWP has long been under scrutiny by critics, but has recently resurfaced as an issue due to the unfolding migrant crisis in Europe, which has led to calls for its suspension.

Proponents of the VWP cite its ability to potentially thwart terrorist attacks by way of information sharing among the 38 VWP countries. But, it played no role in stopping would-be terrorist Ayoub El Khazzani whose train attack plot, in France, was foiled by three Americans and a Brit:

“But more sobering facts have hemorrhaged into the public arena in the days since: jihadist videos, extensive foreign travel, possible connections with a French Islamic State (IS) cell operating in Turkey, and the fact that he was on the terror lists of several European countries. All of this, and yet at the time he wasn’t under surveillance.

Worse, it appears that U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies knew nothing about the intended terrorist, despite his existence on all those lists, including the French “Fiche S” used to alert fellow European Union nations.

What happened to all of the vaunted cooperation and impenetrable electronic nets touted at the congressional hearings as evidence of the security of our visa waiver program (which the Senate voted to expand in June)? Just that quickly, at least in my mind, all of those assurances have turned to dust.

While media accounts tell us that El Khazzani is Morocco-born, they also indicate he resided quite a while in Algeciras, Spain — just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco. I don’t know if that means he had gained Spanish citizenship and thus the right to travel visa-free to the United States or not.

But if such a screw-up can happen once, it has probably happened before, and it can happen again. I’m thinking about that cell of French IS jihadists in Turkey El Khazzani was allegedly working with. What if they slipped through the cracks? They would be entitled to visa-free travel into our country.”

In August, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added new security enhancements to the VWP, but many feel the additions are insufficient in significantly reducing risk. Additionally, several bipartisan efforts to add Poland to the VWP membership have been introduced into Congress:

“This year, Reps. Joe Heck, R-Nev.,  and Mike Quigley, D-Ill., introduced the Jobs Originated Through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act. The bill garnered 87 co-sponsors from both parties, showing the wide base of bipartisan support for VWP reform in Congress. Heck and Quigley argued that the JOLT Act would ‘bring more international travelers and tourists to destinations around our country and create(s) jobs” and ‘(strengthen) our relationships with important allies like Poland.’”

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), however, issued a report earlier in the year warning against adding Poland to the list of visa waiver countries. The reason Poland was excluded in the first place was due to the high rate at which US consular offices refuse Polish visa applications. VWP countries have a refusal rate below three percent and Poland’s refusal rate has been well over twice that in recent years. Breitbart reports:

“Currently there are 38 countries in the Visa Waiver Program.

The report notes that while visa overstays account for about 40 percent of the illegal immigration to the U.S. a 2013 GAO report revealed that less than 2 percent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resources are targeted to enforcement of visa overstays.

More than 25 percent, according to the report, of the estimated 250,000 annual visa overstays contributing to the illegal immigrant population are from visa waiver countries.”

Moreover, the visa program itself is rife with security issues:

  • “Since first mandating a biometric entry/exit system in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), Congress has repeatedly tasked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its predecessor agencies with creating such a system for all ports of entry (POEs) to the United States.[1] After nearly two decades and several additional congressional mandates to implement biometric entry-exit system, DHS has yet to completely implement such a system.”
  • According to NumbersUSA: “While there is no definitive number on how many people have overstayed their visas, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates the number to be between 4.5 and 6 million people. That represents between 37.5% and 50% of the estimated 11-18 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S.”
  • The fact that there are no definitive numbers is indicative of the problem–currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not comprehensively match entry and exit records. So, they have no way of measuring the size and scope of the problem. They also have no idea which countries the overstayers are coming from. A biometric system has been in the works for a while, but not all components of the program are functional at this time.
  • Not much is likely to happen to the overstayers, anyway. The Obama administration made the decision, in 2012, to not prioritize deporting people whose only offense is overstaying a visa.
  • Regarding El Khalifi, the Moroccan man arrested by the FBI for plotting to carry out a suicide bombing on the US Capitol, Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) has pointed out that he, “follows a long line of terrorists, including several of the 9/11 hijackers, who overstayed their visa and went on to conduct terror attacks.” And, his tourist visa expired the same year he arrived from his native Morocco as a teenager in 1999.
  • “Many immigrants who are in the United States illegally never jumped a fence, hiked through the desert or paid anyone to help them sneak into the country. According to a recent study, 45 percent of illegal immigrants came here on a legal visa, and then overstayed that visa.”
  • “Hundreds of thousands of temporary visitors are overstaying their visas each year. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics show clearly that over the last several years the number of deportations has plummeted and the number of illegal aliens allowed to stay and work in the United States has increased.” – CIS Report
  • “The vast majority of illegal aliens residing in the interior face no threat of deportation, regardless of when or how they arrived, or if they have been deported before. Many deportable aliens who are encountered and apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are released soon after, even if they have come to ICE’s attention after being arrested by local authorities.” – CIS Report
  • “This state of affairs can be traced directly to policy changes put in place by the Obama administration. While administration officials claim that these policies are “smarter and more effective” and allow the agencies to better focus on aliens who represent a threat to the public, in reality the intent, and certainly the result, has been the dismantlement of effective enforcement. It is no exaggeration to say that DHS is running a massive catch and release program.” – CIS Report
  • “Although DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson recently stated that illegal border crossings are at their ‘lowest level in years, the agency’s own statistics plainly contradict his claims.”  View the chart.
  • “The number of ICE deportations from the interior has dropped 58 percent since the peak in 2009, from 236,000 to 102,000 in 2014.” – CIS Report
  • The number of those who have received a final order of removal, but still remain in the United States, had increased to nearly 900,000 as of September 2014.
  • The Obama administration has granted more than 5.5 million employment cards to aliens since 2009. Many of those were given to  aliens who crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas.

The 9/11 Commission in no uncertain terms emphasized the need to tighten up security measures involved in the process through which visas are granted. The Visa Waiver Program, however, continues to exist as a big, gaping security hole. And, now some of the 38 VWP nations are dealing with huge numbers of migrants, some of whom will eventually be able to gain entry into the US, without a visa.

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