Editor’s note, 1/29/17: Following President Trump’s executive order on immigration, Conservative Review is featuring this September piece again.
When it comes to immigration and national security (and every other policy, for that matter), even many conservative Republicans can’t hold the ground plowed by liberal Democrats just 15 years ago.
Only a handful of Republicans are calling for a shutoff or cool-down of immigration and visas from the Middle East. Trump has made it a staple of his campaign, and Sen. Cruz, R-Texas, has called for a halt to the refugee program. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill cutting off visas from countries overrun by terrorists. Yet besides a few House members, nobody else wants to pass even a stand-alone bill enacting this commonsense imperative, let alone use the current budget bill to force the issue. All Republican leaders want to discuss is throwing more money at a problem rooted in willful blindness. Those bills will likely strengthen Muslim Brotherhood front groups responsible for training local law enforcement through block grant programs.
And what about Democrats? They don’t even want to discuss the issues of terrorism and insecure borders at all.
However, it wasn’t always that way. In 2002, Congress passed the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, which addressed many of the insecurities in our visa tracking system. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously. The bill was originally sponsored by a group of bipartisan senators, including Ted Kennedy and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:
SEC. 306. RESTRICTION ON ISSUANCE OF VISAS TO NONIMMIGRANTS FROM COUNTRIES THAT ARE STATE SPONSORS OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM.
(a) IN GENERAL- No nonimmigrant visa under section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C.1101(a)(15)) shall be issued to any alien from a country that is a state sponsor of international terrorism unless the Secretary of State determines, in consultation with the Attorney General and the heads of other appropriate United States agencies, that such alien does not pose a threat to the safety or national security of the United States. In making a determination under this subsection, the Secretary of State shall apply standards developed by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and the heads of other appropriate United States agencies, that are applicable to the nationals of such states.
The bill also established a program to monitor foreign students in the U.S. As part of that program, the Bush administration created the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which required visa recipients from countries that represent a security risk to register with an ICE office and report regularly about their plans. Unfortunately, Obama’s DHS abolished the program in May 2011. Now there are twice as many foreign students in the United States, including well over 150,000 from the very countries originally monitored by the Bush administration program.
Ultimately, the 2002 bill had a lot of loopholes, which canceled its benefits in the long run and allowed Obama to erase what was left of the bill. But the fact that Democrats were even willing to sign on to a piece of legislation advertised as cutting off visas from some Middle Eastern countries demonstrates just how far their party has moved in almost 15 years. Sadly, Republicans have moved on with them.
Less than a generation later, after admitting nearly two million immigrants from the Middle East and hundreds of thousands more on non-immigrant visas, wouldn’t you expect an even greater sense of urgency from our political class? Wouldn’t our leaders be especially concerned about this influx of immigrants given how the jihadist threat has evolved from organized command-and-control attacks to individual jihadists carrying out their own attacks?
The fact that Congress passed that type of legislation in 2002 is just one more indication of how far our political class has regressed in its commitment to America’s security over the past 15 years. The pagan ideal of multiculturalism has crushed any modicum of common sense that remained among our leaders in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.