Keeping America Safe from Foreign-Born Insurgents

The case of Times Square bomber suspect Faisal Shahzad should prompt us to revive the policy of “ideological exclusion.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on May 5 on National Public Radio expressed openness to rekindling the ability to reject noncitizens on account of their holding extremist ideologies.

This is something we as a nation did from colonial days through the wartime and the Cold War, so it’s not something out of sync with the 1st Amendment or the “nation of immigrants” mystique. It makes common sense to bar foreigners who mean harm to the United States.

Napolitano was asked about the citizenship application’s questions regarding membership in the Nazi Party, Communist Party, or other terrorist or totalitarian groups: “Should that list of questions at least be changed to ask about organizations and movements that are really out to harm the United States in the present day?”

The secretary replied, “Well, perhaps. I think obviously there will be lots of questions asked like that, should we change the naturalization form. As you read it, I suspect the form hasn’t been changed for quite a while, and that may be something to look at.”

Indeed, we should do a lot more than just change the words on naturalization forms. Thanks to political correctness, U.S. immigration policy approaches the loophole-ridden situation that had developed as of the early Cold War. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee reported the admission of foreign “criminals, Communists, and subversives of all descriptions…like water through a sieve.”

Congress fixed this in the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act. The INA barred entry to aliens whose activities were prejudicial to public safety and the public interest, who belonged to subversive groups or taught or advocated subversion, or who were likely to engage in subversive activities.

Few aliens were actually excluded and many fewer still were deported on ideological grounds. But we maintained these grounds as an option.

Liberal groups and judicial activists steadily undermined ideological exclusion in the courts. Lefty legislators like George McGovern, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Barney Frank attacked this national security tool. 

In 1990, Congress made it nearly impossible to keep out aliens who sympathize with anti-American, radical causes but haven’t themselves taken up arms or bombs. That law tied the hands of national security, law enforcement and immigration officers. The PATRIOT Act began to swing the pendulum back, but it remains too focused on past activity.

It is now well past time to beef up exclusion for ideological reasons. The Times Square case shows why.

Shahzad was arrested for trying to bomb New York City’s busy hub. Shahzad’s Nissan Pathfinder was found in Time Square, full of explosive materials and a detonator.

The suspect is a Pakistani immigrant who became a naturalized U.S. citizen a year ago. Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies has analyzed Shahzad’s immigration record. She has pointed out the system’s weak links that make us vulnerable to such insurgents.

The suspect attended schools in Pakistan where, the New York Times reported, “Islam had been forced into schools and communities as a doctrine and a national glue.” The society’s mentality, a Pakistani official told the Times, is telling: “But in their hearts and in their minds they reject the West.”

Steeped in anti-Western Islam, Shahzad came to Bridgeport, Conn., in 1999 on a student visa at age 19 with an unimpressive 2.78 GPA. Shahzad started working—perhaps unlawfully—at a temp agency while still on his student visa after 2000 graduation. Cosmetics company Elizabeth Arden sponsored him for an H1B work visa for a “low-level accounting job.”

A national security-focused Joint Terrorism Task Force took interest in Shahzad in 2004. About the same time, he married U.S. citizen Huma Mian, who lived in Colorado and with whom he had already gotten a mortgage, though it appears they may not have been well acquainted. 

In 2005, Mian petitioned for Shahzad’s green card, which came through a year later. He had a leg up, having married a U.S. citizen. In October 2008, Shahzad applied for U.S. citizenship and swore his new allegiance in April 2009.

In June, he headed for Pakistan, where he reportedly underwent terrorist training. Shahzad returned in February 2010.

At every point where Shahzad (or other aliens) interact with immigration officials, strong ideological exclusion scrutiny should occur. It should be easier to exclude or remove an alien whose beliefs pose a danger to this nation’s survival or might lead to harm to American citizens.

The 1st Amendment preserves the right to broad political speech for U.S. citizens, not those who falsely swear the citizenship oath and certainly not aliens seeking temporary or permanent U.S. residency. Ideological exclusion measures should be a tool for protecting the security and survival of our great nation.