Border Basics: What Is Terrorist Travel?


Contact: Janice Kephart
jlk@cis.org, (202) 466-8185

WASHINGTON (March 2, 2009) – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s refusal to even use the word “terrorism” in remarks prepared for a congressional hearing last week underlines the fact that she has yet to commit to upholding the laws that derive from the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations on border security.

To highlight the importance of these measures, Janice Kephart has prepared the latest installment in her “Border Basics” educational video series, this one entitled “What Is Terrorist Travel?” Kephart, the Director of National Security Policy at the Center for Immigration Studies and former counsel to the 9/11 Commission, concludes that securing against terrorist travel is essential to eliminate the fraud that enables people to enter, stay, and work in this country for illegal purposes.

Among the laws based on 9/11 Commission recommendations which Napolitano is now responsible for are:

  • The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, requiring Americans and all others to present a passport or biometric equivalent at the border.
  • US VISIT, requiring certain non-American applicants for admission at ports of entry to take biometric fingerprint and photos.
  • Security guidelines for countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program that enable the United States to conduct preliminary vetting of individuals before they arrive.
  • REAL ID, requiring identity verification and legal presence in order for a state-issued driver license or ID to be acceptable for federal purposes like boarding airplanes.
  • E-Verify, a highly successful program shown to be 99.5 percent accurate that helps employers comply with federal law by verifying the identity and work authorization of new hires.

Verifying identity, authenticating travel documents, and assuring legal status to live and work in the United States have all proven their worth in improving security. Since terrorists exploit many of the same border vulnerabilities as identity thieves, drug runners, alien smugglers, and illegal aliens to enter and stay in the United States illicitly, it is imperative that the lessons learned and reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission remain on the front burner of policy development. And yet solid programs that work to expose, deter, and arrest fraud are at risk of stagnating or even being rolled back.