Terror Suspects Staying in U.S. on Revoked Visas; Failure to Close Loophole Hit

Article excerpt

Byline: Audrey Hudson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Suspected terrorists are not kicked out of the United States after their visas are revoked, even though Congress last year asked the Department of Homeland Security to fix a legal loophole that has allowed more than 100 people with links to terrorism to skip deportation, according to a key lawmaker.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge that he is frustrated and concerned that "simple changes" have not been made since House and Senate hearings were held last July.

"It is amazing to me that such a simple and straightforward solution to such a dangerous and well-known problem continues to languish in the slow-moving bureaucracy," Mr. Grassley said in a letter Tuesday.

The changes requested by Congress would allow government officials to question, detain or deport foreigners whose visas have been revoked for reasons linked to terrorism.

"Promises were made, but the promises have not been kept. As a result, we continue to be at risk," Mr. Grassley said.

Officials in the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and State Department are examining laws and regulations already on the books to address the problem. Under current law, visitors cannot be automatically detained if they are "in status" with their admittance.

For example, if a visitor on a three-month visa has been in the country for six months, he or she is "out of status" and can be deported. However, if the visitor has only been in the United States one month, he or she is obeying the rules and is "in status."

The State Department originally had authority over the issuance and revocation of visas, but in an agreement reached last September, the responsibility of visa policy was transferred to Homeland Security (DHS).

"Once DHS learns of a visa revocation, it immediately authorizes an investigation of the individual whose visa has been revoked. …