Admitting Terror

The immigration service's own describe how America failed to protect its borders from the September 11 terrorists

What Mueller likely didn't know is that INS was aware that many I-94 forms were incompletely filled out. Moreover the agency intentionally violated federal rules concerning I-94 forms as a matter of unofficial policy, according to documents obtained by New Times. On March 26, 1998, former MIA port director Dora Sanchez wrote that inspections had shown the airport was "deficient" in ensuring I-94 forms were complete. "This is an area that we must correct," she wrote in an interagency memo to inspectors.

But inspectors say nothing was ever done about it. In fact, on August 14, 1998, Sanchez wrote another memo, this one complaining that some INS officers weren't "inspecting as fast as they should.

"In order to achieve an acceptable rate and maintain a less-than-45-minute processing time per flight, please adhere to the following," she wrote. One of her orders: "If there is no U.S. address and they have none, don't bother with it. Their foreign address will suffice OR a U.S. telephone number OR "Hotel, Miami, FL,' etc. Please don't make the alien hunt for an address if he/she doesn't have one." (Reached by telephone, Sanchez declined to comment.)

The end of the memo is particularly interesting. Even while ordering inspectors not to follow immigration rules for the sake of moving "customers," she puts in a word about enforcing the law. "Our time is very limited and we must use it wisely," wrote Sanchez, who now works for the INS in Dallas. "We must facilitate the entry of all passengers while not compromising our law enforcement efforts."

Letting people into the country was the easiest thing to do, and the bureaucracy naturally followed the path of least resistance.

Unfortunately so did the terrorists.

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