This month marks the 20th anniversary of America’s largest terrorist attack and yet many of the 9/11 Commission’s national security recommendations remain unimplemented.
In many cases, the Biden administration has blatantly ignored those suggested and urgent reforms. The evidence for that is proven by the mounting crisis at the southern border, the wholesale gutting of interior immigration enforcement, and the inadequate vetting of Afghan refugees seeking resettlement. The administration’s reckless approach jeopardizes national security and it must reverse course in order to avoid another catastrophe like September 11, 2001.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the federal government issued a security framework to protect the United States from another attack. Key parts of this framework addressed dangerous deficiencies in our immigration system including securing and managing our borders, and enforcing and administering immigration laws.
And yet the Biden administration categorically weakened all of these defenses through executive orders and memorandums. On his first day in the Oval Office, President Biden signed executive orders to halt border wall construction, to terminate the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, and to freeze asylum cooperation agreements with the Northern Triangle countries.
As a result of these actions, the southern border remains porous as ever. Apprehension totals have climbed to figures not seen in two decades. Individuals are arriving from extra-continental, terror-prone nations with some listed on the nation’s terror watch list and others having serious criminal backgrounds. Our newly triumphant enemies—including the Taliban, ISIS-K, Al-Qaeda—recognize that our nation’s borders are more vulnerable than ever.
The administration’s dangerous and politically driven immigration actions and policies over the past nine months ignore or defy nearly every one of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.
The administration refuses to enforce and administer immigration laws—a second crucial priority recommended by the Commission. Biden’s moves exempt virtually all illegal aliens from arrest and deportation. In April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations fell to the lowest totals on record. In May, the agency’s 6,000 officers were averaging one arrest every two months.
Some 14 million illegal aliens reside in the United States today—many of whom the government knows nothing about. While the vast majority do not pose security risks, the events of 9/11 demonstrate that it only takes a handful of bad actors to lead to tragedy.
Aside from the illegal immigration crisis, the administration’s handling of the Afghan refugee crisis also does little to prevent terrorism and enhance national security—the third pillar of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.
The administration’s resettlement strategy of Afghan refugees is a colossal disaster. It evacuated at least 41,000 Afghans to the U.S. But only a fraction of these individuals are Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders who helped the U.S. military in some capacity. The rest are unknown individuals who made it to the airport tarmac before the evacuation deadline on August 31.
A recent report revealed that at a Washington D.C. area-based processing center, evacuees carried scraps of paper for identification or no paperwork at all. Another report revealed that out of a group of more than 30,000 evacuees from Afghanistan to the U.S., about 10,000 required additional screening and authorities flagged 100 for possible ties to the Taliban or terror groups. A previously-deported convicted rapist was among those who arrived in an evacuee flight to the U.S.
It is difficult to determine with any certainty who many of these individuals are. No U.S. embassy remains in Afghanistan, and the Taliban is in complete control of most records.
Despite these troubling ambiguities, the administration wants to resettle these unvetted Afghan evacuees as quickly as possible into American communities. It pushed to authorize drivers licenses for evacuees—which proved to be critical in the 9/11 terrorists’ ability to commit terror on the nation. It requested $6.4 billion in relief money from Congress for Afghans. Some evacuees can leave military bases unsupervised, according to first-hand experience from a Wisconsin lawmaker.
The Biden administration has had numerous opportunities to address and fulfill many of the 9/11 Commission’s national security recommendations. Instead, it has done the opposite. It has created a porous southern border that is attracting unvetted migrants from extra-continental and terror-prone nations. Its lax enforcement of immigration laws shields dangerous criminal aliens from arrest and deportation. Its Afghan refugee resettlement approach has brought in thousands of unvetted refugees from the highest-ranked terror-prone country in the world. And now, many terror groups are looking to capitalize and exploit these vulnerabilities. This is a bad combination, to the say the least.
We cannot solve all our national security threats by fixing our immigration system. However, starting there would be one of the most effective, practical, and inexpensive ways to reduce the risks of terrorism. Without reversing course, the administration poses unacceptable risks of future attacks to the United States.
Matthew Tragesser is press secretary at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Washington D.C.