About Matt O'Brien

Matthew J. O’Brien joined FAIR in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

ICE and CBP Turned Into an Illegal Alien Shuttle Service

border-patrol-truck-rotator-720x480Most American taxpayers believe that the function of their immigration enforcement agencies, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is to secure the borders and enforce immigration law. Apparently the current administration doesn’t agree. In the last days of his final term, president Obama has turned ICE and CBP into a taxpayer-funded shuttle service for illegal aliens.

Breitbart is reporting that ICE officials are releasing illegal aliens from immigration detention centers and transporting them to bus stations and airports so that they can travel to destinations across the United States. In 2014, the union that represents Border Patrol agents stated that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began allowing illegal aliens to fly on commercial airliners without valid identification. Apparently, the dangerous practice has been continued in order to facilitate the dispersal of as many of the recently-arrived illegals before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The scam works like this: ICE or CBP apprehends illegal aliens. (In many cases the aliens intentionally seek out CBP and turn themselves in, hoping to secure immigration benefits under the latest program.) The aliens are then transported to a detention center for “processing.” Rather than conducting any in-depth background checks and detaining the aliens until they can be removed from the United States, immigration officials issue them a Notice to Appear – a document instructing them to appear before the Immigration Court for a deportation hearing. The majority then simply disappear into the interior of the United States. If they are encountered by immigration authorities again, it is usually when they are arrested by local law enforcement for committing a crime and referred to ICE.

ICE has officially acknowledged its reckless actions in a press release issued to KGNS TV in Texas, stating: “During the recent increase of individuals illegally entering the United States in south Texas, individuals who have final destinations within the U.S. are identified and transported to bus terminals and airports.”

If that seems a bit strange, it should. Nearly all illegal aliens have a final destination within the U.S. It’s extremely rare to find any transiting the lower 48 on their way to Canada or Greenland. That’s why we have ICE and CBP. Their function is to interdict illegal aliens before they reach their American terminus and remove them. Unfortunately, President Obama appears to have turned the two primary immigration enforcement agencies into a taxpayer-funded convenience for illegal aliens – many of whom may later prove to be drug traffickers, terrorists and violent criminals.

Lifezette Front Page Guest Opinion: Debunking the Myth of Obama as ‘Deporter in Chief’

The outgoing administration used gimmicks to conceal the extent

of its immigration lawlessness

Obama_signing_112414The mainstream media and open borders advocates have done an outstanding job of painting President Barak Obama’s administration as tough on immigration violators, even calling him “the Deporter in Chief.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, the administration falsely painted itself as tough on immigration lawbreakers, while simultaneously eliminating most immigration enforcement, thereby endangering both national security and public safety.

This administration’s deportation statistics were deliberately manipulated to mislead the public.  Deportations – the removal of immigration violators arrested in the interior of the United States – have fallen steadily since President Obama’s first year in office and have declined over 40 percent since the Bush administration.

To camouflage this fact, the Obama administration padded its statistics by adding in “turn-arounds” – the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens caught crossing the border illegally, or found inadmissible at a port-of-entry.  The only problem: “turn-arounds” aren’t, and never were, true deportations.  They involve an entirely different legal process. By including “turn-arounds,” the Obama White House bolstered its “deportation” numbers and disguised the fact that it was destroying the nation’s immigration enforcement plans.

The vast decline in real deportations was the direct result of the Obama administration’s disastrous Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). In essence, PEP prohibited U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from prosecuting most deportable aliens. Under PEP, only aliens with convictions for egregious crimes were placed in removal proceedings.  The result: the vast majority of the deportable alien population got a reprieve from any type of enforcement action.

This foolhardy program put the public at risk and rendered immigration offenses inconsequential.  Read the rest of this op-ed here.


Echoes of Rome’s Fall in the EU Migrant Crisis

rome-aqueduct-ruins-rotator-720x480George Santayana famously said that those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.  However, it might be more correct to say that those who cannot recall relevant history will see the errors of the past repeated.  And the handling of the European Union (EU) migrant crisis is a perfect example of why the qualifier is necessary.

Much of the bad policy driving the EU migrant crisis is motivated by a desire to avoid a recurrence of the human rights violations committed during World War II. The popular narrative goes something like this: Only blind, slavish devotion to multi-culturalism can prevent the type of pernicious nationalism that led to the formation of the Nazi party and its fascist affiliates throughout Europe.

So, the nations of the EU admit the unceasing stream of refugees from the Middle East in order to demonstrate that they have transcended their past. What’s worse, they don’t require these new arrivals to learn European customs or conform to European standards of behavior. Increasingly, they’re also hauling anyone who speaks out about the problem into court and charging them with “hate crimes.”

But Europe is focusing on the wrong chapter of its history. The strategic errors of the Roman Empire provide lessons much more pertinent to the handling of the current migrant crisis than anything that can be gleaned from the moral failings of 20th Century dictatorships. Accepting refugees in reasonable numbers that can be effectively assimilated won’t lead to fascism.  However, blindly accepting massive numbers of refugees to avoid political confrontation or military action killed Europe once before.

The original Euro super state, the Roman Empire, fell because it mismanaged a refugee crisis.  In the late 300’s the Huns drove the Goths out of their ancestral homelands. The Goths turned to Rome for refuge. Preferring to avoid any type of conflict, Rome’s political leaders negotiated a deal. They agreed to grant the Goths citizenship in return for military service and labor on Roman farmlands.

The Goths poured into the Empire by the hundreds of thousands, overwhelming local authorities. Considering their culture superior to that of the Romans, the Goths refused to assimilate. In 378 A.D. they rose up and defeated the Roman army at the battle of Adrianople. The Eastern Empire fell.  Only a century later, the remainder of the Roman Empire had been entirely overrun by Goths, Gauls, and related tribes. And Romans found themselves with no choice but to adapt to the now dominant foreign cultures.

There are obvious parallels between the situation faced by Rome during its last century and that currently faced by the European Union. It remains to be seen whether Europe’s preoccupation with its recent past will cause it to repeat the strategic errors of its distant past.


Drain the EB-5 Swamp

swamp-pic-rotator-720x480Forbes recently ran a story on the controversial EB-5 program titled “Here’s One Immigration Policy that Should Withstand President Donald Trump.” The EB-5 program enables wealthy foreigners to obtain lawful permanent residence for themselves, and their immediate family members, by “investing” $500,000 or more in a U.S. based development project. Enacted by Congress in 1990, the program was intended to generate jobs for U.S. workers and attract investment funds to the United States.

Advocates of the program tout it as a capital-raising miracle that carried the U.S. through the 2008-2009 financial crises. But the program has been plagued by allegations of fraud and abuse. Nevertheless, Forbes dismisses these accusations stating, “There has [sic] been allegations of fraud in the system…. Still, to say that the EB-5 program is loaded with money laundering and scandal is far off the mark. ”

Actually, it’s Forbes that is far off the mark. The program has not been short on scandal. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have issued reports criticizing USCIS for lax security procedures and failing to provide adjudicators with the information needed to detect high risk cases. DHS OIG investigated former USCIS Director, now Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas for pressuring USCIS employees to approve questionable EB-5 cases. And U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement produced an internal memorandum (that was leaked to the press) expressing concern that the program could be exploited by criminals, money launderers and foreign intelligence services.

As for claims that EB-5 stimulates capital flow and creates jobs: In October of 2016, the GAO published a report finding that most funding in EB-5 projects comes from domestic capital sources, with only 29 percent coming from alien investors. And the Center for Immigration Studies examined EB-5 data for 2010 (the year with the largest number of EB-5 applicants) concluding that, “for every $100 of increased foreign investment that year, the EB-5 program contributed about one penny.” In addition, others have pointed out that there are no reliable statistics for the number of positions created by EB-5 projects, since the program relies on fuzzy job-counting methodologies.

EB-5 is a pilot program that was set to expire in September 2016 and requires further authorization to continue. Congress extended the program until after the new administration takes office. And the program’s fate remains unclear – Donald Trump (with his son-in-law Jared Kushner) has used EB-5 dollars to fund building projects and reportedly likes the concept. But if our new President is serious about securing our borders and making sure Washington doesn’t revert to business as usual, he will formally ask Congress to stop selling visas to wealthy foreigners. The risks outweigh the rewards. It’s time to drain the EB-5 swamp.

The New York Times and the Nonexistent DHS Corruption “Scandal”

New York Times NYTThe New York Times recently ran a piece smearing immigration enforcement authorities entitled “The Enemy Within: Bribes Bore a Hole in the U.S. Border.” It purports to be an exposé on bribes of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees and contractors. It also hints that the Trump administration’s plans to gain control of our borders will be nixed by complications arising “from within” border control agencies, namely corrupt immigration officers. The clear implication is that DHS officials are easily bribed and will readily sacrifice national security and public safety for personal gain.

The only problem: The numbers paint a significantly less scandalous picture. The Times concedes that all of its information was drawn from court records and internal agency documents. That means all of the corruption referenced in the article was detected and prosecuted by DHS. Sounds more like due diligence than a systemic problem.

It also notes that DHS has brought corruption charges against roughly 200 people over a 10 year period. DHS employs approximately 250,000 people and engages the services of roughly 100,000 contractors. That means that a tiny fraction of DHS’s total workforce – far less than the one percent cited by the Times, as the number of contractors working for DHS is notoriously hard to pin down – has been involved in shady dealings.

Zero corruption is a laudable goal. Nevertheless, any agency with over a quarter of a million people working for it is, inevitably, going to have a few bad apples. But there is absolutely no indication that DHS has become so infected with corruption that it is unable to handle its responsibilities.

Of course, the New York Times seems to have a fluid view on preserving the integrity of the legal system. When lawbreakers serve its ends, it promotes them vigorously. In 2011, the Times Sunday Magazine published a puff piece by Jose Antonio Vargas that glorified immigration fraud, harboring illegal aliens and employment law violations. Since then, it has published numerous articles and editorials encouraging local law enforcement officials to violate the Immigration and Nationality Act by declaring themselves sanctuary cities. And it has taken a brazenly partisan stance against all of President-elect Trump’s immigration enforcement plans.

So why is the Times hysterically pointing out that the sky is falling at DHS? It could be overt bias, a lack of journalistic ethics or a desire to sell newspapers. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The real story is that, on an average day, the anti-rule-of-law entities consistently celebrated by the New York Times do more to hobble immigration law enforcement and imperil national security than all 20 of the corrupt DHS employees prosecuted in a typical year.