7’s Steve Tellier Investigates: Ghost Visas

BOSTON (WHDH) - They came into this country with temporary visas. But when those visas expired, they didn’t leave.

Two friends of one of the Boston Marathon bombers, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadrbayev, were convicted of obstructing justice.

A man who plotted to suicide-bomb the U.S. Capitol — Amine El Khalifi.

Another who tried to blow up a Dallas skyscraper — Hosam Maher Husein Smadi.

Even two of the 9/11 attackers — one of whom helped hijack a flight out of Logan Airport — Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Satam Al Suqami.

All of them were in the United States illegally at the time of their crimes.

Eric Caron, who spent 25 years as a federal special agent, including with the Department of Homeland Security, says it’s vital that we, as a country, know who’s coming in and who’s leaving.

But this new report by the Inspector General found that DHS is failing to do just that.

Last summer, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Boston was one of six visited by auditors. Investigators found immigration agents are forced to navigate up to 27 different databases to get information on visa holders.

Another finding shows that the Department of Homeland Security is 8 years behind schedule setting up a system to track travelers who leave the country. And that’s causing a real problem.

During 2015, immigration agents spent time chasing more than 1,600 people who weren’t actually in the US.

One investigator alone spent 225 hours going after ghosts.

“We’re chasing our tail in many respects,” Caron said.

According to the inspector general, “the time wasted on investigating false leads increased the risk that legitimate overstays were being overlooked.”

Legitimate overstays like the handful who have plotted or carried out heinous crimes.

“We, as a government, need to do a better job, because your and my life depends on it,” Caron said.

DHS says it is working to improve its systems and promised to fix some of the issues within the next year.

For more on this story, watch the video above.

 

 

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