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Terrorists Said to Take Advantage of Lax US Immigration System

The report studied the cases of 94 foreign-born visitors to the United States who were accused, convicted or are suspected of engaging in terrorist activity between the early 1990s and 2004.

The study found that about two-thirds violated immigration laws such as passport and visa fraud, making false statements to border officials, using fake identification and entering into sham marriages, all to enter and stay in the United States illegally.

Janice Kephart, who served as counsel to the 9-11 Commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, wrote the report. "The attack of nine-11 was not an isolated instance of al-Qaida infiltration into the United States. In fact dozens of operatives, including those working on behalf of Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, both before and after nine-11, have managed to enter and embed themselves into the United States actively carrying out plans to commit terrorist acts against U.S. interests or support designated foreign terrorist organizations," she said.

Ms. Kephart argues that unless the U.S. immigration system is improved, America will continue to be vulnerable to terrorists planning acts that will result in mass casualties, major economic damage and destruction of infrastructure. "It shows that terrorists both before and after 9-11 have and will continue to exploit the weaknesses of our lax immigration system by committing fraud and other violations. These gaps in our immigration system will remain exploited until the system becomes designed to catch terrorists better and provide sufficient resources and the political will to enforce the law," she said.

The study was distributed by the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit organization that favors more stringent immigration policies.

The group's research director, Steven Camarota, says immigration officials need more resources because the current number of immigrants is overwhelming those charged with protecting the borders. "You have to spend a great deal more money on this system and give the system greater resources and political commitment so you can verify identities, check watch lists, make sure people are not lying, otherwise terrorists will continue to exploit the fact that the system is overwhelmed by the numbers. Alternatively, we could bring the numbers down to something more manageable and obviously do a better job then of checking each individual. But there are your two choices. You can't have this level of immigration with this level of resources and still keep out the bad guys," he said.

Defending U.S. borders is a top priority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which has launched numerous programs designed to tighten immigration security and keep terrorists out of the United States.

Officials of the Center for Immigration Studies are providing the results of their research to the Bush administration and members of the U.S. Congress.