Kenneth R. Timmerman, NewsMax, June 14, 2006
WASHINGTON — The U.S. immigration system is so broken that it can’t be fixed, a former top security official at the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) told NewsMax in an exclusive interview.
“Internal corruption at CIS is so pervasive that hostile foreign governments have penetrated the agency,” said Michael J. Maxwell, who was forced to resign as chief of the CIS Office of Security and Investigation earlier this year.
“Terrorists and organized crime are gaming the immigration system with impunity. Taken together, these three elements form the perfect storm,” Maxwell said.
“You can’t separate immigration from national security, and that’s what keeps me up at night,” he added.
The Department of Homeland Security has begun to take Maxwell’s warnings seriously. A just-released report from the DHS Office of Inspector General revealed that 45,008 aliens from countries on the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terror (SST) or from countries that protected terrorist organizations and their members were released into the general public between 2001 and 2005, even though immigration officers couldn’t confirm their identities.
Even worse, the report states: “it is not known exactly how many of these . . . aliens were ultimately issued final orders of removal and actually removed, since such data is not tracked” by the Detention and Removal Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The report estimated that 85 percent of those released aliens “will abscond,” even if deportation orders are issued.
The report was released to the public on May 19, but has attracted no attention until now.
“It’s rather frightening,” Maxwell said. He says he “threw up a red flag” last year about the inability of immigration officers to perform background checks on aliens from terrorist-list countries, but nothing has changed.
“Even if the adjudicators get a terrorist hit, the regulations say they must refer the case to the FBI,” Maxwell said. “It doesn’t say, deny them an immigration benefit. It just says, refer. That’s very dangerous, because once they get the immigration benefit it becomes very hard to investigate them.”
If the FBI fails for whatever reason to send over the case file on the individual who has been flagged, “then statutorily, the case officer must grant the benefit, even if there’s a warning the person is a terrorist,” Maxwell told NewsMax.
That means that individuals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, whose identities could not be verified and who could be working for terrorist groups, have been granted green cards or even citizenship, Maxwell added.
Maxwell said it was impossible to know with any certainty how many terrorists had entered the United States illegally. But USCIS has documented an immigration route through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico that could be exploited by foreign intelligence services and terrorists, with the complicity of U.S. immigration officers.
“The smugglers know that only one flight per day is inspected,” Maxwell said, “so they put these folks on other flights,” Maxwell said. An internal CIS investigation into the operations of the San Juan immigration district, obtained by NewsMax, describes the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico immigration pipeline in great detail.
The report noted that smugglers were using the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John for “staging landings” of illegal immigrants, and that “smuggling ventures within the Caribbean meet with little to no resistance.”
Maxwell said that corrupt U.S. immigration officials helped smugglers obtain false identity documents, so the illegals could “hit the beach with dry clothes and immigration documents waiting for them on the beach.”
“That means there is someone dirty on the inside,” he added. While the internal CIS report did not investigate potentially corrupt U.S. officials, it confirmed Maxwell’s description of the Virgin Islands clandestine immigration pipeline.