"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
This is a famous quote invoked by Sir Winston Churchill. It is too bad officials who run Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have paid no attention to Churchill's warning. On December 16, ICE issued a new policy memorandum related to detention of alien asylum seekers who enter the United States. Since the 9/11 attacks, such detention policy has been viewed in favor of detaining such aliens until their asylum cases had completed administrative processing or court litigation, releasing only those determined to be no potential threat to US security and whose release would be for true humanitarian purposes. This stricter detention posture stemmed from enhanced national security concerns.
The newly issued revised policy, effective January 4, 2010, changes this posture dramatically. In fact, it creates a presumption that such asylum seeking aliens should be released. "The new guidelines also mandate that all such arriving aliens should automatically be considered for parole," it says. Asylum seeking aliens who are determined from available information to not be a risk of flight or a threat to the community will be released from custody on an immigration parole status.
ICE officers will, of course, conduct the standard interviews and record checks against any such asylum applicants before deciding if they will be released from detention. The problem will be if a terrorist alien, or some other person who is a serious threat, presents false documents, or no documents, and their biometric information is not yet registered in the available databases. It is likely such a terrorist alien will be released, and provided temporary legal immigration documents in the process.
What history is there to be learned?
Here are but a few examples of terrorist aliens who abusively applied for asylum in the United States and were released while their asylum cases were processed, presumed to be "ordinary" asylum seekers, after a standard battery of background checks and interviews.
Omar Abdel Rahman (the "Blind Sheik") convicted in the 1990s in terror plots to attack New York City;
Ramzi Yousef, convicted in the first World Trade Center bombing attack;
Mir Aimal Kansi, convicted and executed for the 1993 terrorist assassinations of CIA employees outside CIA headquarters in Virginia;
Shahawar Matin Siraj, convicted in 2006 of plotting to bomb the New York City subway system;
Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Maizar, convicted in 1999 of plotting to bomb the New York City subway system;
Nuradin Abdi, linked to al-Qaeda, convicted in 2007 of providing material support to terrorists in a plot to attack a shopping mall in Ohio.
While the vetting process for those background checks may now be somewhat improved, it is far from being foolproof. If the U.S. government's own internal security and counter-terrorism control mechanisms failed to recognize, after numerous warning signs over a long period of time, the threat posed by the alleged Fort Hood assailant, those same systems will not identify foreign threats entering the U.S. 100% of the time.
There will be serious failures. The new presumptive release policy for asylum seekers will almost surely result in more Rahmans, Yousefs and Kansis being freed onto American streets, with legal immigration documents, so they can further their murderous plots against us. Sir Winston would not be pleased, and neither should we.