The 9/11 Hijackers, Visas, and the ‘Gang of 8’ Bill

When it came to maintaining legal visa status, the 9/11 hijackers were rather sloppy. Many violated the terms of their visas and some illegally overstayed them. Despite this, they were successful.

Nearly twelve years later, defenders of the ‘Gang of 8’ immigration bill moving through the Congressional sausage grinder, refer to bringing 11 million Mexicans currently inside the U.S. ‘out of the shadows’. Aside from that figure being little more than an agreed upon, ‘faux’ statistic so as not to alarm the Gang of 8’s opponents, it doesn’t include the number of Other than Mexican (OTM’s) currently within our borders. In the immigration debate, references to illegal aliens undocumented workers from Mexico dominate the discourse because, well, they make up the vast majority of individuals who will benefit from it.

That doesn’t mean that others won’t.

First, consider the ‘Trust but Verify’ amendment introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). The Senate overwhelmingly voted to kill it. Among other things, Paul’s amendment would have made things tougher for individuals from parts of the world that are known to breed jihadists:

A Student Visa National Security Registration system is created to add increased security screening of students coming from countries known to be incubators of extremism and exporters of international terrorism.

That this amendment would be shot down in flames little more than two months after very warranted questions were raised about a Saudi national on a student visa, who was injured in the Boston marathon bombing, is incredible.

In 2001, according to the Institute of International Education, there were slightly more than 5000 Saudi students in the U.S. In a USA Today article from earlier this year, that number jumped to over 11,000 in 2006 and is now close to 80,000.

When discussions about the 9/11 hijackers and visas come up, many people immediately think about student visas. However, as points out, only one of the 19 was actually in the U.S. on a student visa:

only one of the 19 9/11 hijackers came to the U.S. on a student visa, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. That one was Hani Hanjour, a Saudi Arabian terrorist who piloted the plane that was flown into the Pentagon, according to a 2004 staff report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. In his student visa application, Hanjour provided paperwork showing that he was enrolled in an English as a second language program in Oakland, Calif., but he never attended after arriving in America (a fact that would draw scrutiny today). He did not, however, overstay his student visa.

The assertion made by FactCheck – that Hanjour’s behavior relative to not attending the school he put on his visa application ‘would draw scrutiny today’ is belied by facts in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing.

Before we get to the visas of the other 18 hijackers, consider the similarities between Hanjour and Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Harbi, who was injured in the Boston marathon bombings. Like Hanjour was, Al-Harbi is a Saudi national who was in the U.S. on a student visa. Also like Hanjour, Al-Harbi was enrolled at a school more than 500 miles away (Findlay, OH) from where he lived (Boston, MA) and that he was never a student at the University of Findlay.


The University of Findlay has confirmed that a Saudi national originally identified as a person of interest in the Boston Marathon bombings had a Findlay connection of sorts. Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi had a student visa to specifically attend school at the U of F campus..

Compounding these problematic similarities is that Al-Harbi was placed on a terror watchlist, according to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, while also being given a 212 3B designation.

As Diana West discovered, Al-Harbi is still inside the U.S. Whether his visa has expired should be irrelevant when it comes to his remaining in the U.S., unless he’s being investigated instead of deported.

The red flag here is that after more than a decade, we still haven’t learned the lesson of red flags, which leads us to the ‘Gang of 8’ Immigration bill and the Senate’s vote to approve the Corker / Hoeven amendment, which was designed to assuage Republican push-back. It was introduced by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND).

Prior to the vote, Breitbart’s Mike Flynn reported on a disturbing excerpt from the amendment:

(f) APPLICABILITY OF CERTAIN GROUNDS OF INADMISSIBILITY.—In determining an alien’s inadmissibility under this section, section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)) shall not apply.

Who has the time to look up all of those (a)’s, (9)’s, and (B)’s? Without doing so, that sentence appears quite innocuous, doesn’t it? However, upon doing so, you’ll find that it’s actually rather noxious.

Flynn explains:

Current law states that those applying for green cards are ineligible if they are either “illegally present” at any point or overstay the terms of their work visa. Such an immigrant, in current law, would have to return to their home country and restart the immigration process. The Corker Amendment wipes away that enforcement mechanism.

In the current draft of the Corker Amendment, any worker in the country on a legal work visa for 10 years can get a green card, even if they overstay their visa. The Corker Amendment allows immigrants to break the law in the future and still be eligible for citizenship. It absolves prospective behavior, not simply past mistakes.

Prior to the Corker Amendment, the 4.5 million immigrants outside the country on a visa waiting-list were subject to laws restricting their presence in the US. The Gang Senate bill would offer them immediate green cards, as long as they hadn’t violated current US Law.

Let’s now return to the 18 hijackers who were not in the U.S. on student visas. In its article, FactCheck links to a supplemental 9/11 Commission Report entitled, 9/11 and Terrorist Travel. The following paragraph can be found on page 3 of the 241-page report:

All but one of the hijackers presented visitor visas that immigration inspectors used to decide whether to admit them as tourists or on business. All but two of the nonpilots were admitted as tourists and were granted automatic six-month stays. This allowed them to maintain a legal immigration status through the end of the operation. One of the two nonpilots admitted on business was granted a one-month stay; he, along with another of the nonpilot operatives, was in violation of immigration law for months before the attack.

What if very patient jihadists with similarly nefarious plans could shoot for obtaining a work visa, overstaying it, and then never have to worry about their immigration status again? That’d take quite a load off now, wouldn’t it?

In the case of the 9/11 hijackers, they had many obstacles to overcome prior to carrying out their attacks. One of those obstacles involved keeping up with their visa status. Granted, tourist / business visas are easier to obtain than work visas that grant lengthier stays but the spirit of the amendment provides a pathway to citizenship for those who illegally overstay their work visas. If there is one thing that’s been learned about America’s jihadist enemies, it’s that they know our system quite well.

If this amendment – or something like it – is part of any final bill that becomes law, obtaining a work visa will become quite desirous on the part of those who plot against the U.S. Are there stealth jihadists out there who would set out to acquire a work visa if they knew that once it expired, they could overstay it, not only without consequence, but with the reward of citizenship?

What about that secure border?

Perhaps in another ten years, we can make it contingent on giving stealth jihadists the right to vote.


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