Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, grilled bureaucrats from the Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security, over the challenges posed to national security by the failure to deport criminal aliens and others who have violated immigration laws. Chaffetz was outspoken as he condemned earlier testimony by DHS secretary Jeh Johnson and other Federal officials for an alleged failure in both the vetting process for admitting foreigners to the U.S., as well as presidential executive actions that have stymied the deportation process.

Testifying at the December 17 hearing were: DHS Asst. Sec. for Intergovernmental Affairs Alan Bersin; Asst. Sec. of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond; Asst. Sec. of State for Population, Refugees an Migration Anne Richard; and Director of Citizenship Services Leon Rodriguez.

In his opening statement, Chaffetz characterized the United States as the most generous country in the world as to admitting foreigners. He offered several statistics. For example: approximately 10 million temporary entry visas were issued in fiscal year 2015; 131,000 immigrant visas issued; 20 million admitted under the visa waiver program; over 1 million border crossing cards issued to Mexican nationals; and 1 million legal foreign students admitted.

Noting that the commission of fraud by visa applicants makes them deportable under law, Chaffetz said that as a result of “executive actions, such conduct is not necessarily a priority for removal.” He said that law enforcement officers frequently arrest illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. “And then (DHS Secretary) Jeh Johnson comes out and says ‘even if you commit sex crimes, even if you do certain other crimes, you don’t necessarily have to deport them.’”

Speaking forcefully, Chaffetz told the panel “They’re here illegally, commit a crime, and Homeland Security is saying ‘use discretion, we may not want to deport these people. It’s not a threat to public safety.’ You tell a woman who’s been raped that it’s not a threat to public safety to have that person here.”

Members of the panel, including Rodriguez and Bersin, struggled to answer Chaffetz’s questions about whether or not DHS and State monitor social media in the vetting process for the issuance of visas, and deportations.

A State Department official made a startling admission during the testimony. Assistant Secretary Bond admitted that the Obama administration cannot be certain of the whereabouts of thousands of foreigners living in the U.S. whose visas have been revoked over terrorism concerns, and other reasons.

Chaffetz tore into the bureaucrat, saying “You don’t have a clue do you?” When Bond intially admitted that the Federal government had revoked in excess of 122,000 visas since 2001, including 9,500 for terrorism threats, Chaffetz questioned her about their location. 

"I don't know," said Bond. 
Rodriguez, who directs U.S. Citizesnship and Immigration Services, averred that checks on social media postings are not being done in an abundant manner. He could not say exactly when checking this open source resource would begin. 
Congress is trying to determine the effectiveness of the vetting process for allowing temporary visitors and immigrants to the United States so as to bar potential terrorists. In the case of Tashfeen Malik, the female of the terrorist duo of the San Bernardino attack, came into the U.S. on a K-1 fiancee visa in 2014. Despite a background check, the FBI now asserts that Malik had already been radicalized. Her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook was an American citizen who was born in the U.S. FBI Director James Comey has said Malik and Farook communicated privately online about conducting terror attacks on non-Muslims and dying in the cause of Islam before their marriage. 
Lawmakers at times angrily pressed officials on why even public social media wouldn't routinely be looked at for vetting those trying to enter the country.
"If half the employers are doing it in the United States of America, if colleges are doing it for students, why wouldn't Homeland Security do it?" said Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass. "We don't even look at their public stuff, that's what kills me."
"There is less there that is actually of screening value than you would expect, at least in small early samples, some things seem more ambiguous than clear," Rodriguez told lawmakers. He added that three pilot programs have been introduced, and that foreign alphabets used in social media are difficult to translate. However, he added, 
"We all continue to believe there's a potential for there to be information of screening value ... particularly in high risk environments." 
The Federal government is reviewing the process of background checks for the issuance of visas. DHS is looking into when authorities can examine social media posts as part of the visa application process. On December 16, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, "There are some legal limits to what we can do" He said that reviewing social media has some merit, but could not give any specifics. Johnson suggested this week that the Obama administration is better off focusing on stopping illegal immigrants at the border, rather seeking to deport those already inside the country.
During his opening remarks,  Chaffetz spoke to the security failure represented by the shooters Malik and Farook. He said: "It is unclear how someone who so openly discussed her hatred of our country and way of life could easily pass three background checks. We need to understand how the breakdown happened with Malik and what we are doing to make sure it doesn't happen again."



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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