What the Center for Immigration Studies Missed – How Alien Terrorists Exploited the EOIR

Possibly five of the
forty-eight terrorists identified in the CIS
report passed through the EOIR Immigration Court
system undetected. These terrorists, like any
other aliens in EOIR proceedings, were allowed
to be released from immigration detention while
waiting for their Immigration Court cases to be
resolved. That is the major flaw of the EOIR
system — the built-in excuse that the system
provides for aliens to remain in the United
States. Since the EOIR litigation process is so
unnecessarily lengthy, and since the INS cannot
possibly detain so many aliens for so long
without removing them, the Immigration Court
system permits aliens to be released on
immigration bonds and get out of INS custody.
And once out of custody, terrorist aliens remain
in the United States to carry out their
activities as planned, criminal alien residents
are released back onto the streets to resume
their lives of crime, and non-terrorist illegal
aliens go right back to working illegally at the
very same jobs from which they were rounded up
in the first place. It`s obvious that the
inherent inefficiencies and absurdities of the
EOIR system pose little threat to "sleeper"
terrorists. They just walk right through this
supposed removal process along with the rest of
the aliens in Immigration Court.

What CIS overlooked — the EOIR Immigration Court

Center for Immigration Studies
hit another home run
with its May 2002 report,

The Open Door — How Militant Islamic Terrorists Entered
and Remained in the United States, 1993-2001
Dr. Steven Camarotta. The report adds an exclamation
point to CIS` reputation as the preeminent research
organization tackling immigration issues. And as a
web-based repository of research, CIS also benefits from
the knowledge base of all of its viewers. So in the
spirit of

internet collaboration
and with great respect for
their work,
offers an analysis of what the

CIS terrorism report

As some immigration reformers already know, exposing
the bureaucratic U.S. Immigration Court system of the
Executive Office for Immigration Review is the central
theme of
And rightly so! A virtually
unknown agency within the U.S. Department of Justice,
the EOIR and its system of endless hearings and appeals
deserves every bit of blame that can be heaped on it, in
order for it to receive its fair share of public shame
for the federal government`s utter failure of
immigration law enforcement. It is incomprehensible that
no matter how intensely the immigration debate rages in
Congress, in the media and by the President himself, the
EOIR Immigration Court system is nowhere to be found.
The EOIR conveniently hides behind the hated Immigration
and Naturalization Service when the public is out for
blood. So why isn`t the EOIR ever mentioned in the
immigration reform debate? How can the EOIR, a federal
agency with

nationwide offices
and direct control of the
detention and deportation of millions of aliens in the
United States manage to hide for so long? The EOIR even
eluded Dr. Camarotta and the CIS research team.

The centerpiece of the CIS report is a survey of the
immigration status of forty-eight recent militant
Islamic terrorists.

Page 11
The report unearthed many clues as to which
terrorists may have passed through the EOIR Immigration
Court system. But CIS did not mention the EOIR as being
one of the immigration mechanisms that the terrorists
exploited for their advantage to stay in the United
States. The bottom line about what CIS overlooked is the
fact that the Immigration Court system of the EOIR also
played a role in assisting some of the terrorists to
stay in the United States, or at the very least, played
a role in allowing them to buy more time in the country
in order to carry out their evil plans. The terrorists
exploited the EOIR system just by being in it!

The often overlooked EOIR is in reality a

key piece of the puzzle
for explaining why our alien
detention and removal system in this country is broken.
It is the EOIR system which allows aliens to remain in
the United States far longer than they have any logical
right to remain. The EOIR is also the smokescreen that
allows the aliens that the federal government already
knows about (and actually locked up in detention) to be
released again. The aliens then disappear back into the
country to become fugitives again, under the pretense of
waiting for the hearings and appeals of their
Immigration Court cases to be resolved, which often is
many, many years away. The release of thousands and
thousands of aliens because of the inherent delays of
the EOIR Immigration Court hearing system is a national
scandal. The insanity of the EOIR process cannot be
ignored any longer.

Possibly five terrorists in four plots

According to the CIS data, possibly five of the
forty-eight terrorists passed through the EOIR hearing
system undetected, yet remained in the United States to
participate in the following plots: the 1993 World Trade
Center attack, the 1993 murder of CIA employees in
Virginia, the foiled 1997 plot to bomb the New York City
subway system, and the foiled millennium celebration
bombing plot. Unfortunately,
does not have access to any federal government files on
particular aliens in this matter. Without confirmation
of INS or EOIR documents, it is not possible to be
certain that news accounts of the terrorists`
immigration matters accurately reflect the existence of
any Immigration Court cases for these aliens. [Note: why
doesn`t the federal government release the data, rather
than CIS having to do their own survey seven months
after the fact? — a point made by CIS Executive

Mark Krikorian.
] But based on the CIS report and
various existing news accounts,
believes that it is possible that as many as five
terrorists might have participated in EOIR hearings in
the Department of Justice while they were simultaneously
in the process of planning terrorist acts. In these
Immigration Court hearings, the terrorists would be
eligible to apply for many discretionary forms of

relief from deportation.
These killers could have
been asking the discretion of United States government
immigration judges in the Department of Justice to
prevent their deportations, while at the same time
moving forward with schemes to murder American citizens.

Trusting a subway bomber to depart voluntarily

The CIS report identifies Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer as
an illegal alien who participated in a terrorist plot to
bomb the New York City subway system. The report finds
that Abu Mezer appeared before "a judge," and "[a] judge
issued a 60-day voluntary departure order, but before
the 60 days were up he was arrested on July 31, 1997."

Page 30
This alien who was given voluntary departure
by an EOIR immigration judge is now serving life in
prison, thanks to some excellent police work. But no
thanks to the U.S. Immigration Court system!

According to the Houston Chronicle ("INS policies
criticized as too lenient toward students," 9/16/01),
Abu Mezer was intercepted in 1997 after he already
completed Immigration Court proceedings. Abu Mezer had
been given voluntary departure from the United States by
an Immigration Judge, but failed to depart as ordered.
He was released from INS custody during the Immigration
Court proceedings and given the privilege of leaving the
U.S. on his own. This would-be terrorist, a Palestinian,
was arrested in New York in the summer of 1997. He was
plotting to build pipe bombs to use in the New York City
subway system.

Houston Chronicle Paid Archives

A bomber with "good moral character?"

The story behind the Abu Mezer story is that for an
alien to be given the fprm of relief called "voluntary
departure," the immigration judge trusted that Abu Mezer
would pay his own travel expenses, actually leave the
United States, and also obey the order of the
Immigration Court and depart before a specified date. To
grant this type of relief, the immigration judge also
must find according to the statute that Abu Mezer is a
person of "good moral character" and that he is
deserving of the relief in lieu of an order of
deportation as a matter of discretion. [Note to the
Immigration Judge: I`ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for
sale that you might be interested in, too.]

The Abu Mezer case shows that EOIR Immigration Court
judges are capable of unwittingly signing "voluntary
departure" orders for potential subway-bombing
terrorists! The Abu Mezer case shows that a potential
terrorist can walk right through the EOIR Immigration
Court system without missing a beat. A terrorist can
walk right out of INS detention on an immigration bond
set by an EOIR immigration judge and resume his
activities back on the streets of America. And when it
comes time to depart "voluntarily," he can always ignore
the immigration judge`s order and disappear without a
trace in another immigrant enclave in another city.

Lack of detention space for 1993 WTC bombers?

The CIS report identified two alien terrorists who
participated in the 1993 World Trade Center attack as
being released from custody "possibly due to a lack of
detention space" and "because the INS did not have
detention space."

Page 25
The report notes that Ahmed Ajaj "[l]eft the
U.S. without attending a hearing" and that he had
"applied for asylum." It is possible that this alien
applied for asylum during Immigration Court hearings
before the EOIR, and that he was released from custody
on an immigration bond pending the outcome of his
Immigration Court case. See

Page 35
If a second 1993 WTC terrorist, Ramzi Yousef,
also applied for asylum and was actually released from
INS custody, it is possible that he also was appearing
before the EOIR Immigration Court requesting political
asylum. The fact that he was released from INS custody
is a major clue to the EOIR connection, since outside of
the border areas, the entire INS detention system is
geared toward detaining aliens for EOIR Immigration
Court proceedings. The charging document for Immigration
Court (called a "Notice to Appear") gives the INS the
authority to hold illegal aliens and criminal alien
residents in custody. Aliens can also be held at ports
of entry and removed without EOIR involvement under
certain specific criteria of the Immigration Act. It`s
quite possible that Ramzi Yousef was under EOIR
Immigration Court proceedings during the 1993 WTC
bombing plot.

EOIR — the reason for the INS` folly

The CIS report acknowledges that "the INS often does
not have the space to hold all those who violate
immigration laws," and that "[h]ad [Ramzi Yousef] been
held in detention, it would have made it far more
difficult for him to mastermind the first attack on the
World Trade Center in 1993."

Page 35
Absolutely! But the CIS report stops short
in addressing the underlying reason behind releasing
aliens like Yousef. Believe it or not, the INS does not
"catch and release" aliens simply for sport, like some
sort of fishing tournament. The INS does it to serve the
EOIR system. The hidden factor behind the futile "catch
and release" program for immigration violators is the
endless litigation bureaucracy of the EOIR. If the EOIR
Immigration Court process (complete with its
smorgasboard of

relief from removal
and automatic appellate rights)
did not exist, then there would be absolutely no excuse
for the federal government to release captured
deportable aliens back to the streets, where the aliens
could disappear all over again. With this type of
unwieldy system, the INS cannot possibly detain so many
aliens for so long during the process. The EOIR is the
reason for what appears on the surface as mere INS

Plotting assassin applying for asylum?

Mir Aimal Kansi, the Pakistani alien who assassinated
two CIA employees in Virginia "applied for asylum" and
"received a work permit" according to the CIS report,

Page 18
It is not clear whether Kansi applied for
asylum before an Immigration Judge or made an
application to the INS at one of the regional asylum
offices. If he applied before the INS, it is not clear
whether his application was still in progress, or
whether it was denied and referred for review by the
Immigration Court. The denial scenario is possible
because all aliens who apply to the INS offices for
political asylum and happen to be denied get the
automatic privilege of a second chance at presenting
their case, this time before an EOIR immigration judge
at a formal hearing. Kansi might have been in the
process of having a case heard by the EOIR before this
killing spree. He might even have been granted some form
of minimal relief, like "voluntary departure," while
remaining on the streets.

Millennium bomber appeals asylum denial

The foiled millennium celebration bomber, Abdel Hakim
Tizegha, was a political asylum applicant in the United
States. According to the CIS report, "his application
for asylum was denied in 1997, as was his appeal in

Page 30
This clue as to his immigration status
points to an Immigration Court case before the EOIR, and
an appeal to its appellate body known as the Board of
Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Virginia. If this
illegal alien terrorist had applied for political asylum
directly with the INS asylum officer corps, there would
have been no formal "appeal" of the decision if he was
denied. But since the CIS report identifies an appeal
two years after a denial, it is possible that this
Algerian terrorist had a case that proceeded through the
EOIR system, while he remained in the United States to
plot the murder of innocent American citizens. Though
the BIA may have made the ruling in 1999 denying his
asylum claim, the bomber still remained in the United
States to continue his scheme.

9-11 Terrorists never reached the EOIR system

By remaining undetected by federal immigration law
enforcement, the terrorists of 9-11 remained on the
"service" side of the Immigration Service without ever
running afoul of its "enforcement" efforts. By staying
on the

"good aliens"
side of the INS, the 9-11 terrorists
were able to move freely within the United States and
plot mass murder. Even if they were illegal aliens, by
virtue of expired visa status, they were never arrested
on immigration violations and never made it to the
Immigration Court system. But suppose for a minute that
they had all been apprehended simply as tourist visa
over-stayers, or no-status illegal aliens, without their
true intentions being discovered. These silent
terrorists would have had little to fear from the EOIR
Immigration Court process. After being arrested, if they
were detained at all, they would have been put into
Immigration Court proceedings. When they appeared before
an EOIR immigration judge, they most likely would have
been released from custody for the payment of an
immigration bond of perhaps $3,000 to $10,000. Once they
were out of custody, they would be free to exploit the
delays inherent in the EOIR litigation bureaucracy.

Exploiting the EOIR asylum process

If the 9-11 terrorists were arrested as simple visa
over-stayers, they would have been entitled to make
applications for political asylum before the EOIR
immigration judges. And if they lost their cases in
Immigration Court, they could just appeal again as a
matter of right to the Board of Immigration Appeals, and
then to the federal circuit courts of appeal while
remaining in the United States the entire time. As long
as the 9-11 terrorists managed to get out of INS
custody, the fact remains that any pending EOIR
Immigration Court hearings wouldn`t have slowed these
cold-blooded killers down one bit!

Chances are that the EOIR`s Board of Immigration
Appeals and Immigration Courts have heard cases of
potential terrorists and their sympathizers. Just how
many is unknown. Given the current state of affairs at
the INS, there are probably no consistent or reliable
procedures for comprehensive security checks of
political asylum applicants (including aliens applying
before the asylum offices of the INS or before the
Immigration Court). The chances of there being
newly-minted political asylees who are also "sleeper"
terrorists are great.

The CIS report even suggests a scenario where the
spiritual leader of the 1993 World Trade Center plot,
Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, may have appeared in
Immigration Court using "an asylum application to
prevent his deportation to Egypt after all other means
of remaining in the country had failed."

Page 30
It is not clear whether this asylum
application was made before or after the 1993 bombing.
It could be that the Sheik was the sixth terrorist (out
of the group of forty-eight identified by CIS) to pass
through the Immigration Court system. But without
government confirmation, the record is unclear.

Who knows how many aliens wishing to do this country
harm could have gained status in this country through
the wide-open door of the political asylum process?
Political asylum is always an avenue for entry into the
United States for just about any alien, whether or not
the alien was already granted a non-immigrant visa at a
U.S. consulate abroad. The sad truth about the system as
it exists today is that international alien smuggling
and the asylum process remain as viable vehicles for
entry for anyone determined enough to enter the U.S.,
whether they are so-called

"economic refugees,"
terrorists who wish to do our
country harm, or both. The asylum process through the
EOIR Immigration Court system is one of the country`s
most dangerous open doors just waiting to be exploited,
even by sworn enemies of the United States. Who knows
how many asylum applicants or their family members with
loyalties elsewhere have successfully exploited the
refugee, asylum or Immigration Court systems and remain
in our country?

Exploiting the EOIR without breaking the rules

Let`s face it, the bureaucratic EOIR Immigration
Court system is ripe for exploitation by terrorists,
their supporters, collaborators and families. The EOIR
Immigration Court system is also a central component of
what it wrong with U.S. Immigration policy. The EOIR is
part of the problem, not part of the solution for
efficient immigration law enforcement. The EOIR system
of hearings and automatic appeals provides the perfect
stalling technique where the aliens that the federal
government is supposed to be removing actually wind up
staying in the United States longer, and very often with
a gift of legal status which they never had in the first
place. The EOIR system cannot be overlooked any longer
as part of the failure of U.S. immigration policy. The
EOIR should be abolished and its functions parceled out
to law enforcement officers in a federal agency
dedicated to actually enforcing the immigration laws of
the United States.

Juan Mann is the proprietor of
— the only immigration reform web site that exposes
the litigation bureaucracy of the EOIR. He dedicates his
work to the principle that one man`s opinion can make a

June 03, 2002