Security Gaps Used by 9/11 Terrorists Still Wide As Ever

13 Years After 9/11, Security Gaps Exploited by Terrorists Still Wide as EverOn the thirteenth anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, a recent ABC News Investigation revealed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has lost track of more than 6,000 foreign nationals who have overstayed their student visas and disappeared. This investigation highlights how DHS has failed to fix the security gaps in the student visa program, even after it was discovered that one of the 9/11 hijackers was in the U.S. on a student visa. Indeed, one of the key recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission was to fix the student visa program. 

The investigation found the rapidly increasing number of foreign students entering the United States on student visas, now more than a million per year, has overwhelmed DHS’ ability to monitor the entrants. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE)’s own figures show that 58,000 students overstayed their visas last year. The agency considers 6,000 of these to be of heightened concern, but ICE agents have been unable to locate them. As Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, told reporters: “They get the visas and just disappear.” Once the student arrives in the Unites States, it is up to the school to keep track of the visa holder’s location and report to the government if they repeatedly miss class.

Colleges, universities, and vocational schools must apply for permission from the government before they can accept foreign students. They do so by filing a certification petition through the ICE website. A school must be able to establish that it: 1) is a bona fide school, 2) is an established institution of learning or other recognized place of study, 3) possesses the necessary facilities, personnel, and finance to conduct instruction in recognized courses, and 4) is in fact engaged in instruction in those courses.

Despite the stunning number of overstays, the government allows over 9,000 schools to give visas to foreign students, many of which have proved unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibility to ensure students are not abusing the program. ABC News notes that the government has approved not just prestigious universities offering rigorous courses of study, but also schools whose programs offer instruction in a host of non-academic activities.  For example, 86 beauty schools, 36 massage schools, and nine schools that teach horse shoeing are on the list, and foreign students can enter on a student visa (which are uncapped in number) to focus on such pursuits as hair-braiding, tennis, or golf. According to Senator Coburn, the primary function of many of these programs is selling visas, not education. Janice Kephart, counsel to the 9/11 Commission, explained that such schools are dangerous to national security, for they enable “terrorists to come here under a fraudulent basis and disappear into the fabric of society without anybody knowing that they are here for an illegitimate reason.”

Not only does the government recklessly approve “schools” to give visas to foreign “students” in the first place, it also fails to remove schools from the approved list even given strong evidence they are not legitimate. For instance, last May five top officials of Micropower Career Institute, a school licensed by the state of New York, were indicted for visa fraud, yet the school has not lost its approval. When asked why, Peter Edge, deputy associate director for Homeland Security Investigations, said the agency has no choice but to continue to allow Micropower to facilitate student visas because “everyone has due process.” Yet, to the contrary, the INA does not force DHS to give schools an extended process before losing approval but rather states that if a school fails to “promptly” report when each foreign student fails to attend, the school’s approval “shall be withdrawn.” (See INA § 101(a)(15)(F)(i) and § 101 (a)(15)(M)(i))

Furthermore, because the Administration has also refused to implement a biometric entry exit system, even though one is required by law, once DHS has lost track of a student visa holder, it has no way to know if the student is still in the country.

This article was originally published in FAIR’s Legislative Update on September 9, 2014

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Content written by Federation for American Immigration Reform staff.


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  2. avatar

    Shows once again how the Obama political agenda including “open borders” is so very dangerous to our country in many ways.

  3. avatar

    I forgot to add an item that would create the would-be-terrorists in America, that is allowing unaccompanied minors to enter the country, don’ t you think that some might be adults passing off as minors? Terrorists have become global and the failure of the Administration to stem the flow of these alleged minors might replicate the most unfortunate attack on the twin towers.

  4. avatar

    New News Story on ISIS Plans to Attack America Soon Through the Open Borders Mexican Route

    “…ISIS militants have reportedly been talking about invading the United States through the border with Mexico, a United States official warned this week.

    Speaking before a Senate committee, the under secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security said militants have been caught on social media discussing ways to infiltrate the United States….”

    But we’re all a bunch of “racists” for wanting immigration laws enforced.

    • avatar

      Bingo Marlene, this is one of the biggest solutions; also scrutinize the kind of schools for which Visas are given and start eliminating many certain of the schools, which I understand are in the business to sell phony Visas. Only 4-yr university degree bound people should be allowed Visas for schooling, and they should be forced to leave when No flying schools or other “miscellaneous” types of schools listed in this article. Visa up 58,000 students overstayed Visa–ridiculous. But this Obama admin does not care, reason why they lost track of 6,000 students who overstayed Visa.

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    So after 9/11 our incompetent government creates a big new bureaucracy entitled the Department of Homeland Security in order to create the illusion of security, and more than a dozen years later it is still unable or unwilling to implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations and secure our borders. But this is the same government that was incapable of providing adequate security at airports to stop 9/11 in the first place, which was easily preventable by anyone who knew anything about airport security. A group of single Middle Eastern men with one way airline tickets and expired visas want to get on the same airplane. How anyone who knows anything about airline security could not figure out that this was a potential hijacking is incredible.

    And then after 9/11 our Department of Homeland “Security” allows Muslims from Chechnya to legally immigrate to our country, and we have the Boston Marathon bombing and American children killed and missing limbs. Let’s see, how many terrorist attacks have Muslims from Chechnya carried out in Russia? Isn’t it obvious that letting them immigrate to this country is a bad idea?

    And now we have Muslims that we allowed into this country who are members of ISIS that we have to track down among the millions of people in this country illegally. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s time for our pathetic, incompetent government, media, and other Americans who still don’t get the reality of the world we live in to get over their politically correct fantasies and acquire the guts to secure our borders like most countries in the world before the next terrorist attack.

    • avatar

      I must sincerely say that what you have written is bound to strike a chord with citizens who love America. The Department of Homeland Security could take your comment as a benchmark to keep America free of terrorists.

      • avatar

        Thank you for your comment, I am glad that you think so. I also love America and hate to see what has happened and is still happening as a result of lax border security. Let’s keep the pressure on our government to do the right thing and secure our borders!

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      SecBorders… are so ignorant of the facts and why things happen the way they did,,, and then your have the sheep following you which appears to be a trend……….the reason the Homeland Security was created was because our System failed to work……….it was a systematic anomaly we have had FOR YEARS……………………

      • avatar

        If you think that just because our incompetent government creates a new bureaucracy and entitles it Department of Homeland Security that means we now have a secure system in place then I guess you will believe anything our government tells you. Even with our new Department of Homeland Security most of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have not been carried out and we have Obama’s OMB now lifting the ban on allowing the US to provide flight training to Libyans, and more states providing drivers licenses to illegals, etc. Providing flight training to Middle Eastern men without the proper visas was insane the first time around, but now we may be flight training Libyans? Seriously?
        As far as the Boston Marathon Bombing which our Dept of Homeland Security did not prevent, no other country in the world that is serious about their security would allow Muslims from Chechnya to immigrate to their country after the number of terrorist attacks they have carried out in Russia. And the hijackers would not have had a chance of pulling off a 9/11 in a country like Japan or Israel that is serious about its security and has not been emasculated by political correctness. For example, Japan actually enforces its immigration laws and they have not had a major terrorist incident in their country since 1995. It is a pretty basic concept, but Islamic Terrorists cannot carry out terrorist attacks here if they are not in this country in the first place.

  6. avatar

    In the “fails to remove schools” link it notes that in the indictment of it’s top five officials, 80% of the students at Micropower Career Institute were in delinquent status on their visas. A fact that the school was required to report but did not. But their 4 campuses are still on the approved list.

    For Homeland Security to be claiming that the schools must be allowed to continue to operate because “everyone has due process” Is simply another glaring example of this administration rewriting the law to it’s own purposes. Individuals are entitled to due process and those indicted should have that. But the regulations governing these schools clearly state that the administrators must report those violations “promptly”. There is no right to run one of the schools. It’s a permission granted by the government and when it’s obvious that an official criminal investigation has shown overwhelming flouting of the law, the approval to run such a school needs to be withdrawn.

    Again, as always, when there is a choice between enforcement and deliberately changing the rules to avoid enforcement, this administration will go with non enforcement. To claim that the schools can’t be shut down until an official conviction of it’s officers means they can continue to hand out these visas for years. And for all those who claim how important these foreign students would be to the economy of this country, I can’t imagine why hair braiding and horse shoeing is something Americans can’t do.

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      DHS is simply giving excuse on excuse. All they simply need to do as they are rewriting the rules and laws is to do the reverse and remove many of these schools from approved lists, limiting the number and kind of schools. All of the crap perpetrated by this Obama administration is piss-poor excuse on excuse. What a bunch a liars. Obama wants this, otherwise why is the border not protected and/or closed?? Too obvious, contributes to his need for the downfall of America.