The Wall Is Not Enough. Here’s How to Solve Illegal Immigration.

President Donald Trump held talks with leaders of both political parties on Tuesday to discuss a major agenda item for this year: immigration.

This issue, specifically illegal immigration, is one that Trump has devoted great energy to since the early days of his campaign. And it’s one conservatives must make a top priority this year.

We’ve made some important strides in this area. 2017 saw border crossings fall to their lowest level since 1971, thanks to the Trump administration’s policies. But there are still hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants trying to cross into the U.S.

There are also hundreds of thousands of visitors to the U.S. who continue overstay their visas. So it’s worth considering, at the outset of 2018, how to solve this problem.

For a lot of people, border security is what first comes to mind—often embodied by Trump’s appeal for building a “wall.” This focus on border security is a valid priority.

It’s clear that the U.S. can make improvements at its borders to stop additional illegal immigration. These include adding physical barriers where they would be effective, improved technology to monitor the border, and ensuring that we have appropriately equipped border patrol agents watching our border.

This holistic approach of combining barriers, technology, and people is the cost-effective way to secure the border. Build “the wall” is not enough.

Congress and the administration could build a large wall on a mountain in the middle of a desert in New Mexico, but that would not be the best use of limited security dollars. The mountainous terrain already acts as a natural wall that prevents border crossing.

Furthermore, a wall in a remote desert would barely slow down illegal immigrants. It would only take them a few minutes to get over the wall, but after that it would take them hours to reach the nearest town or road—the proverbial speedbump in the desert.

Instead, our tax money would be better spent on technology or additional agents would could respond to and detect illegal crossings.

This is what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, and many of the pro-enforcement policy community thinks is the best way to secure our border.

But let’s step back. Is better border security even the main way to stop illegal immigration?

It is certainly a piece of puzzle. The more important piece, however, is the enforcement of U.S. immigration law within the country.

Once an illegal immigrant is picked up at the border, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and immigration courts must actually remove the illegal immigrant. Border security is only as good as the enforcement that backs it up.

Furthermore, border security does nothing to help stop visa overstays. Only interior enforcement can do that.

So while border security helps us catch some illegal immigrants, robust enforcement across our nation helps us catch and remove them, thus helping to deter all illegal immigration.

Already, the president and members of Congress are considering changes to our immigration policy. If they truly want to stop illegal immigration, some good places to start would be: expanding the number of ICE officers, pushing back on sanctuary cities, expediting deportations, and increasing the efficiency and number of immigration courts.

These measures, coupled with improved and cost-effective border security, would go a long way to solving our illegal immigration problem. It’s hard to imagine a better resolution for 2018.

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We Risk Returning to Pre-9/11 Status Quo if We Don’t Maintain Section 702

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which has proved vital for keeping the U.S. safe from terrorists, is set to expire at the end of this year.

Section 702 has been described as the “crown jewel” of U.S. intelligence for its intelligence gathering on foreign actors, most notably terrorists. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Rachel Brand, the no. 3 official in the Trump Justice Department (and a member of President Barack Obama’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board), argues that 702 “has prevented multiple terrorist attacks, including an al-Qaeda plot to detonate explosives in the New York subway.” Indeed, the National Security Agency has identified over a dozen instances where 702 was essential to foiling terrorist plots and conspiracies.

Section 702 is not a bulk collection of data, or a way for the government to spy on Americans Before any data can be a collected, a specific target that meets specific national security criteria is required. Furthermore, that target must be located outside the U.S. and there must be a reasonable expectation that the target is not a U.S. person. If an American emails with the foreign target, the government can collect those emails but can go no further into Americans’ emails.

So after collecting this foreign intelligence, of course the U.S. government uses it to keep Americans safe. One way the information is used is by sharing information from these foreign targets with the FBI when the intelligence relates to a domestic security investigation. While the FBI has historically ended up making queries of 702 collected information from fewer than 5 percent of all 702 targets, this information is essential to keeping the U.S. homeland safe.

It is for this reason that intelligence and security leaders from both parties and multiple administrations have implored Congress to maintain this program as it is.

Unfortunately some in Congress are considering changes that would rebuild the walls between our intelligence agencies that existed before and were to blame for 9/11. These proposals would limit the FBI’s ability to use foreign intelligence in their investigations. Intelligence officials have warned that these new limits, such as requiring a warrant before the FBI can query 702 data, would prevent different parts of the intelligence community from sharing with others.

As just described, this is intelligence lawfully gathered from foreign intelligence targets. The American judiciary has repeatedly agreed that 702 collected information is legally collected and retained.  There is no reason to add a warrant requirement or other barriers. We don’t make the FBI get a warrant just to access the information that it already has on hand in other cases. Of course we should allow the FBI to query this information to help put together the dots of a domestic terror plot.

Section 702 is not only effective and legal, but it is also subject to rigorous oversight by all branches of government. There is the FISA court, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the Congressional intelligence committees, and the intelligence organizations themselves that all play a role in ensuring these programs are operated correctly.

We must not return to a pre-9/11 mindset where we hide information from ourselves. Congress should reauthorize 702 in its current form.

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Attempted New York Bombing Calls for Renewed Vigilance Against Homegrown Terrorism

The attempted suicide bombing by Akayed Ullah in New York on Monday is the 101st Islamist plot or attack against the U.S. homeland since 9/11.

While the device did not succeed in causing the destruction that Ullah wished, the U.S. must redouble its commitment to stopping terrorists before they strike.

Ullah came to the U.S. from Bangladesh in 2011 on a family-based green card. According to authorities, he began radicalizing in 2014 and began researching bomb making in the past year. Ullah watched various pro-ISIS materials during this time.

Before the attack, he made several social media posts, including the statement, “Trump you failed to protect your nation,” and another indicating the attack was in the name of ISIS.

Ullah attached his homemade pipe bomb to his person and entered the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal on Monday morning and exploded the device. Thankfully, it did not cause serious injury to commuters. Ullah was then taken to the hospital with burn injuries around his abdomen.

When interviewed, Ullah claimed that he “did it for the Islamic State” and that he had attacked the terminal on a weekday to maximize casualties and terror.

This is attack is the 23rd Islamist plot or attack since 9/11 to target New York City, the most targeted city by far. It is also the 12th attack or plot targeting mass transit systems. While it thankfully was not deadly, it is the 17th Islamist attack to be completed out of 101 plots. It is the 6th plot of 2017.

This plot also continues the trend of terror plots that are homegrown–that is, carried out by terrorists who radicalized in the U.S. This attack is the 89th plot or attack that was entirely or largely homegrown in nature. It speaks to the importance of assimilating immigrants into American society once they arrive here.

The government should not be dividing Americans into various identity groups, but should instead seek to affirm the e pluribus unum” character of the nation.

This case also calls for continued improvements to our intelligence programs and agencies. The FBI must continue to improve the way it shares information with state and local partners, especially given the growth of terror investigations during the past several years.

Policymakers must also ensure that intelligence and law enforcement agencies have access to the intelligence they need to foil terror plots.

This includes reauthorizing the FISA 701 program in its entirety. Putting up walls between various agencies such as by adding additional warrant requirements for information that has already been lawfully collected will weaken the United States’ ability to find and stop terrorists.

The attack on the New York Port Authority terminal is a reminder that while ISIS is being driven from its strongholds in the Middle East, its followers and sympathizers, and those of other Islamist terror groups, remain dedicated to striking the U.S homeland. The United States must remain vigilant.

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