This weekend, as we have for the past 15 years, Americans will pause to remember the most significant terrorist attack on U.S. soil. As stirring as the remembrances are sure to be, the United States has still not completed some of the most basic steps to ensure that future attacks don’t occur.
These steps were laid out extensively by FAIR in the wake of 9/11 and some of these recommendations made it into law. However, even these measures remain stymied. In particular, the REAL ID program and the entry-exit tracking system have still not been fully implemented.
The REAL ID act was passed in 2005. The major provisions required states to verify the legal status of people that they give licenses to. All of the 9/11 hijackers had licenses, many of them valid, from multiple states. Mohammed Atta was able to get a Florida driver’s license despite being in the U.S. on a temporary visitor’s visa.
More than ten years later, fewer than half of states are compliant with REAL ID. Numerous delays have extended the implementation date of the act to give states more time to comply. And several states continue to issue licenses to illegal aliens.
The entry-exit system was originally passed into law 20 years ago with IIRIRA. The law, signed by then-President Bill Clinton, recognized that a substantial percentage of illegal aliens are visa overstayers.
Again, despite clear congressional intent to establish such a system, subsequent administrations refused to implement the law. There are clear security risks for not having an effective entry-exit tracking system – According to a 2011 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), 36 of about 400 terrorists convicted by the United States since 9/11 had overstayed their visas.
The American public’s willingness to confront the continued threat posed by terrorist attacks is very high. Our elected leaders are a different matter. Terrorism is still a real threat in the United States, as several deadly attacks over the past year have demonstrated. These attacks, linked to the terrorist group ISIS, are a reminder that the threat of terrorism didn’t end with the death of Osama bin Laden and that laws passed to respond to these attacks need to be enforced.