AUSTIN, Texas – For its new border "enforcement" plan – the one that pre-legalizes intending border-crossers while south of the border and then flies or escorts them across official ports of entry, President Biden's Department of Homeland Security assures that all must first pass "rigorous security vetting", and "security background checks".
DHS has just added four new nationalities – Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Haitians – to the plethora of other nationalities that had already been crossing through land ports of entry for at least eight months under the "CBP One" reservation system. They include Syrians, Tajikistanis, Russians, Somalis, and Afghans. These newest four nationalities of Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Haiti may be the most numerous of those using the CBP One pre-legalization process, accounting for up to 360,000 pre-legalized entries a year among them.
But it must be pointed out that, for super-majorities of all the foreign nationals who have and will use this new ad hoc parallel immigration system, meeting the program's top, No. 1 requirement of "rigorous" security vetting will turn out to be all but impossible. Security vetting for the entire program stands as an empty promise, an unfulfillable requirement that will bring danger into the nation. Here's why:
American border officials receiving these hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals will take biometrics, names, fingerprints, and personal testaments to clean living back home. But they will have no way to check for criminal histories back in home countries that are either diplomatically estranged from the United States or simply have no capacity to check and report back a result.
No one can expect Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela to happily run criminal histories for the Americans, even if they had the computerized capacity to do so. All are openly hostile toward the United States, suffering under various kinds of U.S. economic sanctions (Cuba) or diplomatic isolation (Venezuela and Nicaragua). None of those nations have or would create interoperable databases the Americans could check for criminality that would strike their citizens from the CBP One program.
Haiti is currently a failed state, all but bereft of any government function these days and, even in better days past, had no capacity to run criminal background checks for the Americans.
The problems runs far beyond these four recent additions to the CBP One pre-legalization program. As the Center for Immigration Studies alone reported in November, immigrants from Muslim-majority nations all over the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa have been using the CBP One system since at least last summer, including Syrians, Afghanis, and Somalis.
Don't expect criminal database access from hostile Syria, Afghanistan, or Russia. Nor from Somalia, the northeast African nation that for 30 years had no government that could even hand out birth certificates, driver's licenses, or make criminal arrests of any kind.
In its reporting, CIS found that Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans have been admitted for many months through the CBP One system. Maybe the Americans would have better luck checking the criminal backgrounds of these nationalities, given efforts in recent decades to arrange relationships with those countries. But are their systems to be trusted for thoroughness, to catch everything there is to catch among peoples who have been living in rural villages?
To be sure, the American border agencies can run the biometrics of these people against American databases. But it's a safe bet that not many of these applicants have ever lived inside the United States, and those who were deported after criminal convictions will not bother to apply. They'll run through the border in hopes of reaching the interior.
Whatever assurances our leaders are giving that approved CBP One applicants are all clean as a whistle, the truth can only be that Americans will have no more knowledge about any of these strangers and their backgrounds than if they were to run the border illegally as they had originally planned. And as millions already have in this, the greatest mass migration crisis ever to have stricken the United States.
Todd Bensman is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies. He previously led counterterrorism-related intelligence efforts for the Texas Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division.