The Corner

Immigration

Mahmud Abouhalima Day

Policemen help a woman flee the World Trade Center after a blast ripped through the office complex, February 26, 1993. (Mark Cardwell/Reuters)

Friday is the 28th anniversary of the first World Trade Center attack, which killed six people and came close to knocking down the Twin Towers seven and a half years before another group of Islamist terrorists succeeded. The experience of one of its masterminds should give pause to lawmakers considering the U.S. Citizenship Act, a.k.a. the Biden-Menendez amnesty bill.

Mahmud “The Red” Abouhalima was an Egyptian radical Islamist who flew to the U.S. in the fall of 1985 on a tourist visa. He had no intention of leaving and became an illegal alien the next year when he overstayed his allotted time. Working as a cab driver in New York, he applied for the 1986 amnesty — as a farmworker. And he was approved, as were thousands of others, in what the New York Times called “one of the most extensive immigration frauds ever perpetrated against the United States Government.”

Only with the legal status accorded him by the amnesty was he able to travel to and from Afghanistan for terrorist training, which he used not only for the WTC attack but apparently also in the planning for the follow-up plot (which was happily foiled) to bomb New York City landmarks.

Even with “only” about three million applicants, the 1986 amnesty was riddled with fraud and inadequate vetting. Does anyone think the Biden-Menendez amnesty for many times more illegal aliens, run by an administration openly hostile to immigration-law enforcement and determined to maximize approvals, would be any more successful at — or even interested in — preventing, identifying, and prosecuting fraud? The bill’s prohibition against the transfer of any information from amnesty applications to ICE ensures that even if the overwhelmed, Lucy-in-the-chocolate-factory bureaucracy of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did stumble across any incriminating information, nothing could be done with it.

It’s inevitable that even with muscular and well-established immigration-control and vetting systems, an amnesty would enable some liars and malefactors to get through. But to attempt an amnesty — whether comprehensive or piecemeal — without a massive infusion of funds and a long lead time to build up capacity is asking for trouble.

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