Skip to comments.Visas for Suspected Terrorists? - State defends the indefensible.
Posted on 07/17/2002 11:07:33 AM PDT by xsysmgr
The State Department is fighting a terrorism task force's recommendation that suspected terrorists be denied visas this is the same department that wants to hold onto the visa-issuance power in a time of war when our enemies want nothing more than entry into the United States.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage responded to the recommendation by writing to the Justice Department that "[believing that] an applicant may pose a threat to national security... is insufficient [grounds] for a consular officer to deny a visa." No, this letter wasn't written before last year's tragedy; it was written on June 10, 2002, one day shy of the nine-month anniversary of 9/11.
The Justice Department's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (FTTTF) made a very common-sense request: deny visas to people who may well be terrorists. State refuses to do it, even though the law requires it; the Immigration and Naturalization Act clearly provides for keeping out people suspected of being national-security threats: "[If] a consular officer knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, [an alien] is engaged in, or is likely to engage after entry, in any terrorist activity" the officer can deny the visa to the alien.
State's position is no surprise, as the department has repeatedly stressed the notion of "fundamental fairness" for foreign visa applicants. Even in the wake of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, State believes that all foreigners should be treated with "fundamental fairness," even if that means issuing visas to suspected terrorists.
State's response to FTTTF is in keeping with its reaction to negative publicity about their Visa Express program in Saudi Arabia: It twists the truth and sticks to its guns in advancing the interests of foreigners. The law is unequivocal: If someone is deemed a threat to national security, that person can be denied a visa. State, however, finds the law inconvenient, so it distorts the law: "[I]f there are no grounds under the law on which to deny an alien a visa, the consular officer is required to issue a visa," Armitage wrote. This is simply not true.
Under the law, all foreigners are presumed ineligible for a visa, unless and until they can prove otherwise as even Deputy State Department Press Secretary Phil Reeker noted last week. "Everywhere in the world, non-immigrant visa applicants are... ineligible for a visa unless they can demonstrate otherwise."
State is fighting for the rights of suspected terrorists to enter the United States at the same time that it is fighting in Congress to hang on to authority over visa issuance.
Given that all 19 of the 9/11 terrorists came here on legal visas, nothing would seem more central to the focus of the Department of Homeland Security than keeping terrorists from reaching our shores in the first place. Reps. Dave Weldon (R, Fla.) and Dan Burton (R, Ind.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R, Ia.) agree, which is why they're pushing transfer visa power from State to Homeland Security. State, however, has other ideas. Secretary of State Colin Powell has been leaning hard on individual congressmen to keep visa authority within his department, despite State's overwhelming record of failure in securing our borders.
Powell's lobbying has badly distorted the truth, and in the rush to complete the homeland-security bill, he has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of many good congressmen. About the only thing that might overcome Powell's deceptions is public pressure demanding that State lose its ability to hand out visas.
Powell is intent on making sure Homeland Security won't have a real say in keeping terrorists from getting visas. The "compromise" to the president's proposed structure of the new department that several congressional committees have settled on would do little more than have Homeland Security issue memos from Washington, leaving "operational control" in the hands of State. Operational control is like possession: It's nine tenths of the law.
If State retains operational control, it would be able to implement or ignore regulations issued by Homeland Security in whatever fashion it chooses. The entrenched "courtesy culture" that continues to sacrifice border security at the altar of convenience for foreign visa applicants would thwart efforts by Homeland Security to keep out bad guys, just as it has done to similar attempts by the Justice Department. Ten months after 9/11, State is still fighting proposals to deny visas to suspected terrorists.
Since the Justice Department more or less now serves the same "regulatory" role over visa issuance that Homeland Security is scheduled (in the current version of the bill in Congress) to serve after the new department is created, State will be able to act as it is now, insisting on lax treatment of visa applicants, even ones that are suspected terrorists. Only Congress can put a stop to that and that will only happen in the face of public pressure to take visa powers away from State and put them in the hands of Homeland Security.
The Select Committee on Homeland Security, which is voting this Friday on visa-issuance authority, and be contacted by the phone/fax/e-mail below:
Phone: (202) 225-4000;
Fax: (202) 225-1115;
Joel Mowbray is an NRO contributor and a Townhall.com columnist.
The law is quite clear that non-citizens are presumed to be ineligible for a VISA, until they successfully prove themselves to be eligible. But for reasons incomprehensible to any sane person, the State Department is insisting on opening wide the gates, unless perhaps the applicant has arrived with bombs strapped to his or her body, and a note that says "I'm a Terrorist, Stupid!"
We need to ensure that border security responsibility is taken away from the "roll out the red carpet" crowd, and put it in responsible protective hands. Colin Powell is lobbying Congress to accept a compromise to keep visa issuance inside his department. If he still thinks that issuing visas to the people who rammed planes into our buildings was the right thing to do, we must not fall for this foolish compromise, or the blood of Americans who die as a result of the actions of the terrorists to whom his agency issues visas will be on OUR hands, as well as his.
The State Department has failed in its duty to us. Congress, please be sure you do not fail to resolve the problem.
"[believing that] an applicant may pose a threat to national security... is insufficient [grounds] for a consular officer to deny a visa."What, then, could possibly be sufficient grounds?
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