The Obama administration is failing to adequately screen and track nearly 10 million foreign immigrants who were let into the country on visas last year, according to a congressional member of the House Judiciary Committee, who disclosed to the Washington Free Beacon that there is "tremendous pressure" on federal authorities to green light these visas despite the inability to fully vet foreigners.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) told the Free Beacon that nearly four years after a government oversight body highlighted critical vulnerabilities in the U.S. visa system, the risk of infiltration and fraud remains at record highs.
These flaws have allowed terrorists to gain legal entry to the United States, yet the Obama administration continues to pressure federal authorities to admit individuals into the country—even those who have failed to properly complete their visa applications, Forbes said.
These practices have prompted Forbes to spearhead legislation aimed at tightening security screening measures and cracking down on fraudulent visa applications.
"What most Americans don’t realize is that just last year alone we issued about 10 million visas for people to come into the United States," Forbes said in an interview. "That’s a pretty large number and we really don’t have the processes of completely vetting those individuals, nor do we have processes often times of keeping up with them once they get here. So in addition to just driving or walking across the border, or sneaking across the border, on the Southern border, we have 10 million that just come in because we stamped a visa and allowed them to come in."
While congressional leaders and law enforcement authorities have warned that foreign terrorists could exploit security gaps in the visa waiver program, the Obama administration continues to green light immigrants in record numbers, Forbes said.
"I don’t think they’re [the administration] being held accountable and I think part of the reason they’re not held accountable is because this is one of those issues that they love to blend apples and oranges and confuse the public with," Forbes said.
"What we do know is that there sometimes can be tremendous pressure to stamp these visas and get them moving," the lawmaker added. "This is an administration that has taken the motto of finding yes instead of being correct."
As congressional concerns over the issue grow, the Obama administration is moving forward with a plan to resettle some 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States this year. In a bid to expedite the process, screening times for these individuals have been cut from around 18 to 24 months to about three months.
Obama administration officials have admitted that the current system is flawed and "presents risks to our national security."
"We may be admitting individuals who wish to do us harm, or who do not meet the requirements for a visa," a Department of Homeland Security official testified to Congress in March. "Basic information on visa applicants was not captured in electronic format and thus cannot be used to perform basic investigative steps."
Forbes’ legislation seeks to close these gaps by tightening current regulations.
The bill would mandate that visa applications from countries with known ties to terrorism receive extra scrutiny from federal authorities. It also would require authorities to review the social media accounts of individuals applying for a visa.
Authorities currently do not review social media accounts, even though there have been instances in which visa applicants have used them to express support for terrorism.
Tashfeen Malik, one of the terrorist shooters who killed 14 in San Bernardino last year, had reportedly pledged loyalty to ISIS on Facebook.
Forbes’ bill would also boost security cooperation between agencies and deny entry to any foreign individual who fails to complete an application.
"Here’s the problem with the existing system," Forbes said. "Just because you haven’t committed a bad act in the past doesn’t mean you aren’t trying to commit one now. In fact, we’ve actually had terrorists who have said they went to great lengths to make sure they had no previous record so that they could make sure they got their visa to come in and do a terrorist attack."
Democrats in Congress have been fighting the legislation, Forbes said.
"They do not want to put these additional measure in and it just baffles us," he said. "They fought us tooth and nail."