Recently the Majority staff of the Committee on Homeland Security issued a report on the results of an investigation in the threat posed to the United States by the radical Islamic terrorist group, Al Shabaab, which is allied with Al Qaida. The report focused in particular on the efforts of the group to recruit Americans and the possibility that the group would be able to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States.
The findings detailed in the report were highly disturbing. The Committee staff concluded that there was a significant and growing danger of American Al Shabaab fighters returning to the U.S. to launch strikes or helping Al Qaeda and its affiliates attack the homeland. In support of this conclusion, the Committee noted:
- Al Shabaab has an active recruitment and radicalization network inside the U.S. targeting Muslim-Americans in Somali communities.
- At least 40 or more Americans have joined Shabaab.
- So many Americans have joined that at least 15 of them have been killed fighting with Shabaab.
- At least 21 American Shabaab members overseas remain unaccounted for and pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland.
- Shabaab has the intent and capability to conduct attacks or aid Al Qaeda in attacks on the U.S. homeland.
For an illustration of the dangers posed by Al Shabaab one look no further than Sweden where police a week ago arrested four men with suspected ties to Al Shabaab for preparing to carry out an attack using firearms and explosive devices. It appears the four were likely targeting Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist, who has received death threats from Al Shabaab for depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a dog. Vilks was apparently scheduled to attend an art fair in Gothenberg, Sweden's second largest city, when the arrests occurred. At the same time the arrests took place, Swedish authorities evacuated hundreds of people from the building hosting the art fair "after concluding that there was a threat that could endanger lives or health or cause serious damage,". Police then searched the building, breaking open several lockers.
Given all this you might assume that our homeland security apparatus would be taking a particularly hard look at any Somalis attempting to enter the country and doing everything possible to keep Al Shabaab operatives from making it to our shores.
You would be wrong. Despite the growing danger of an attack inside the United States by Somalis affiliated with Al Shabaab, our immigration policy continues to be one of effectively allowing any Somali who can make it to the US border to enter the country and to remain here indefinitely, unsupervised.
Every week Somalis, having completed a lengthy trip across Africa and Central America, arrive at the U.S. port of entry in San Diego and request asylum. They claim that they are refugees from the fighting in Somalia. Typically, they have little to no documentation to support their claims or to identify themselves. In almost all cases, we have no information of any kind in any database to substantiate who they are or any element of their stories.
It does not matter. The individuals are admitted into the United States and held at taxpayer expense pending a determination regarding the legitimacy of their claims. Most are actually held for no more than a couple of months. They are then released into the United States pending the scheduling of hearings in their cases. While on release there is effectively no control on their activities and no real effort to control where they go.
But, here's the real kicker. When a hearing finally takes place and a determination is made regarding the individual's claim for asylum, even if that claim is denied, the individual is still not deported. We have suspended deportations of Somalis back to Somalia. In other words, no matter what happens, once you make it to the border at San Diego and request asylum, you are virtually guaranteed that you will be admitted into the United States and that you will be allowed to remain here indefinitely.
I have no doubt that the vast majority of Somalis coming to this country are decent, hard-working individuals fleeing a nightmare at home and seeking to start new lives. I also suspect that the drive and ambition they bring with them likely enriches the communities in which they settle. I am equally as certain, however, that a dangerous, committed enemy like Al Shabaab cannot possibly miss the opportunity afforded them by our shortsighted policies and our blindness to obvious holes in our security. We have provided our enemies with a ready-made almost foolproof methodology for moving terrorist operatives into the United States. We have put out a welcome mat for terrorists.