Lax new INS limits
on Mideast visitors

By Paul Sperry

WASHINGTON – It’s official: Airport immigration officers under a new anti-terrorist tracking system will not be required to check to see that visitors from high-risk Mideast countries actually board flights and leave the U.S. when their visas expire, reveal new federal guidelines for departure controls, a copy of which was obtained by WorldNetDaily.

The tracking system, which fully goes into effect Oct. 1, was developed in part to crack down on Mideast nationals who overstay their visas. Three of the 19 Arab hijackers overstayed theirs, and were living in the U.S. illegally when they attacked New York and Washington last year.

The National Security Entry Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, requires that men ages 16 to 45 visiting the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen report to airport inspectors on their visa departure date.

But it does not mandate that inspectors escort the aliens to their departure gate, or witness their departure.

New Immigration and Naturalization Service guidelines only encourage them to do so “where logistically possible and operationally feasible,” according to an INS update to the Inspector’s Field Manual. The update, which runs more than 30 pages, was distributed Sept. 5 to INS regional directors as part of an internal INS memo titled, “Standard Operating Procedures for Alien Registration.”

INS officials have determined that witnessing the exit of high-risk aliens is not “possible” or “feasible” even at the nation’s largest airports.

At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s busiest, the departure control office has been set up next to a bar, far from international gates.

And at Los Angeles International Airport, the nation’s third-busiest, the INS PASS office currently open to expedite processing of frequent business travelers is doubling as the new departure control office. It’s located on the lower arrival level of LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Inspectors worry foreigners intent on doing America harm could report to the INS departure office when their visas expire to avoid being added to the lookout list (and possibly getting a deportation order) but never actually board their flights.

“We are now asking citizens of special-interest countries to report to an office located in the arrival area of the airport designed to expedite business travelers and have their passports stamped with a departure stamp, and then – on the honor system – expect them to go upstairs to the departure area and board the airplane out of the U.S.,” warned an INS inspector at LAX.

“The excuse for this is that we do not have enough inspectors to cover the departure gates,” he said.

What’s more, he says the government is not requiring the airlines to have their gate agents check high-risk visiting aliens’ passports for the INS departure stamp prior to their boarding.

“So it is quite possible these people could depart the U.S. without checking in with INS to have their passport stamped,” thereby possibly avoiding detection of visa violations, which would otherwise be flagged in the database, the inspector said.

New guidelines are not firm in dealing with aliens who fail to report to departure officers.

“Aliens who were subject to special registration and did not report their departure to INS may not be eligible for readmission, including automatic visa revalidation, when attempting to return to the United States (emphasis added),” state the standard operating procedures obtained by WND.

Aliens who fail to report to an INS office for a required interview between 30 and 40 days after arriving in the U.S., or a required annual interview, “may result in his removal (emphasis added),” according to the new rules.

An INS investigator explains that the NSEERS program hasn’t made removal of an alien who overstays his visa any easier.

“There have been no changes in immigration law to allow for the immediate removal of aliens who violate the conditions of their visa or the new reporting requirements,” he said.

“NSEERS and verification of departure sound wonderful,” the INS investigator added. “But expedited removal still only applies to aliens who entered without inspection and have been in the U.S. for two years.”

In fact, the updated INS field manual practically discourages agents from even looking for visa violations during the departure interview.

“The purpose of examination for special registration purposes upon the alien’s departure is not to discover such violations; it is simply to input information on the registrant’s departure,” the new rules advise.

Yet visa overstays are a big immigration problem in America and, as the hijackers proved, a national-security risk.

About 40 percent of all illegal aliens living in the U.S. today arrived on temporary visas – such as those issued by the State Department for tourists or students – but never went back home.

Previous stories:

INS to vet Indonesia, Malaysia travelers

Saudi ‘shocked’ to be added to INS watchlist

Memo: U.S. gets tough with Paki, Saudi visitors

INS crackdown yields few foreign fugitives

U.S. holding Canadian teen in Afghanistan

U.S. still resettling Afghan refugees here

INS agents: Ashcroft’s visa-check plan flawed

INS hasn’t closed terrorist loopholes at airports

INS profiling some young Mideast men

INS terrorist database often crashes

Don’t arrest terrorists, INS tells LAX agents in memo

INS to deport 6,000 Arab aliens on commercial jetliners

INS hasn’t closed terrorists loopholes at airports

FBI shadowing suspect passengers