July 22nd, 2011 19:32 EST
Judyth Piazza chats with Michael Cutler, Former Senior INS Investigator and Expert Witness
I think it is absolutely essential that I explain who I am. I also feel it is important to explain why I have embarked upon a mission to provide insight about our nation`s many failures in securing the United States borders. My opinions are based on thirty years of experience with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Beyond my professional experience, I`d also like you to understand that who I am as a human being is a foundation for my opinions as well.
Why is immigration such a large issue? Immigration impacts many of the most important challenges confronting our nation today. It impacts national security, criminal justice, the economy, the environment, health care and education (to name a few). Anyone who believes that these issues need addressing must also address the immigration component of these issues.
I am a proud member of the Jewish faith. I am and have always been a registered Democrat. My parents were also Democrats. My dad was a plumber. He was born in Brooklyn, New York nearly 100 years ago. His parents and most of his siblings came to the United States from Russia a couple of years before he was born. His father (my grandfather) was a Cossack, which is a soldier in the Russian Army. He hated the conditions in Russia. He especially hated the way that the Tsar treated the peasants and the Jews. I was told my grandfather was all about justice.
My mother was born in Poland and legally immigrated to the United States as a teenager a few years before the Great Depression. My mother`s mother (my grandmother) was not able to immigrate to the United States. My grandfather had divorced my grandmother and refused to bring her to the United States. Consequently, my mother lived by herself in a rooming house. She got her first job in an umbrella factory, a job that paid all of three dollars per week.
When the Holocaust swept through Europe, my grandmother was among the many millions of people who were slaughtered. In fact, many of my mother`s relatives perished in the Holocaust. They paid the ultimate price for being Jews. I believe that the Holocaust represented not only an unbelievable example of extreme cruelty but also the ultimate manifestation of bigotry. In my world, bigotry is utterly unacceptable.
On September 11, 2001, I was home with a leg injury. (The injury was a result of my participation in a field operation involving the FBI and NYPD that took place nearly 2 years earlier. I was assisting with the execution of arrest and search warrants of a violent drug gang when my knee, that had been injured in line of duty injuries several times before, gave out.) I had driven my youngest son to school in the heart of Brooklyn when a New York City Police helicopter flew overhead, apparently heading towards lower Manhattan.. As someone who had done some flight training back in college (I had logged about 20 hours of solo flight time) and having flown in an NYPD helicopter to do some photography before a major arrest operation with the DEA, I tend to notice aircraft. On that day, I noticed that the NYPD chopper was flying very fast.
I didn`t think much about the chopper until I returned home with my wife. Upon opening the front door to our home I noticed the television, which was still on from earlier that day. I was stunned to see flames and smoke pouring out of the north tower of the World Trade Center Complex. I then watched the second airliner slice through the south tower. Shortly thereafter, we saw the ashes of the World Trade Center flutter down on my home. Many of my neighbors had come out of their houses weeping. Many of their spouses, children and parents worked at the World Trade Center. They knew that the lives of their loved ones were in jeopardy.
On that day our nation was attacked. On that day it was also my city that was attacked. My rage and frustation was (and still is) immense. Our nation had received so many wake up " calls and it seems that all that our nation`s leaders had simply hit the snooze " button and refused to do what was necessary. (On February 26, 1993 the World Trade Center was first attacked. The Clinton Administration did nothing to address the immigration component of that terrorist attack. In fact, a couple of short years after that attack, the Clinton Administration embarked in a program to naturalize as many aliens as possible known as Citizenship USA. " Rather than address the national security aspects of immigration, they chose to ignore the crisis.)
I began my career with the agency that had been known as the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) in October, 1971 as an immigration inspector assigned to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
From 1973 until 1974 I was assigned as an examiner to the unit which was responsible for adjudicating petitions filed by United States Citizens and Lawfully Admitted Permanent Resident Aliens (LPRs) on behalf of their alien spouses to accord them LPR status. My goal in this assignment was to attempt to uncover fraud marriages and fraud marriage rings.
In August 1975 I became a Criminal Investigator (Special Agent) for the INS at NYC. I rotated through virtually every squad in the Investigations Branch. As a special agent I conducted investigations and arrests of individuals involved in a wide variety of immigration-related violations of law including a number of international terrorists.
From 1988 until 1991 I was assigned as the INS representative to the Unified Intelligence Division (UID) of the DEA in New York. In 1991 I was promoted to the position of Senior Special Agent and was assigned to the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) which required that he work with members of other law enforcement agencies including the FBI, DEA, ATF, U.S. Customs and local and state police as well as law enforcement organizations of other countries including Israel, Canada, Great Britain and Japan, to conduct investigations of aliens involved in major drug trafficking organizations. These investigations ultimately resulted in the seizure of the assets of these criminals and their arrests and successful prosecutions for a wide variety of criminal violations.
I remained in this position for the balance of my career. My career was unusual in that it provided me with a sort of Grand Tour " that gave me an extensive insight into many aspects of immigration and also provided me with an intimate view on how immigration impacted other law enforcement agencies within the United States.
The past and the future
In May, 1997 I was called upon to testify before a Congressional hearing on the issue of Visa Fraud and Immigration Benefit Fraud by the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims. This would be my first appearance before a Congressional hearing but would certainly not be my last.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001 I was called upon to testify before more than one dozen Congressional hearings and was requested to provide testimony to the Presidential Committee on the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.
Since the attacks of 9/11 I have endeavored to do whatever I can in order to provide my perspectives on immigration that impact everything from national security and criminal justice to the economy, the environment, education, health care and other issues.
The immigration issue is so incredibly important to our nation and, while it is often portrayed as being of great concern to so-called political Conservatives, " in my view, it must be of great concern to all Americans of all political perspectives and affiliations. In fact, I have been a registered Democrat ever since I cast my first ballot as a college student.
Democracy is supposed to be about discourse and the honest and open debate in which all perspectives are considered before critical decisions are made. My goal is to provide the insight that I have acquired during my career which spanned some 30 years and continued through my interaction with politicians, journalists and others with whom I have interacted as an INS officer and since my departure from that agency and my involvement in Congressional hearings and media appearances.
Please check out his website: