It’s time to plug our porous borders |

It’s time to plug our porous borders

Guy W. Farmer

A group of Republican congressmen, alleging that more than 480,000 illegal aliens (the approximate population of Washington, D.C.) have entered the United States since Sept. 11, seek to amend President Bush’s homeland security bill to allow American military forces to patrol our porous borders with Canada and Mexico. I think that’s a good idea.

No matter what happens to the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service under the president’s proposed homeland security reorganization, however, those agencies are simply overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of illegal immigrants streaming across our northern and southern borders.

And, as I’ve noted before, the INS is one of most dysfunctional agencies within the federal bureaucracy. This became painfully apparent when the INS approved visa renewals for two of the Sept. 11 hijackers several months after their fiery deaths in the terrorist attacks against the Pentagon and World Trade towers.

So what good will it do to create a new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security if the agencies charged with protecting our borders aren’t up to the task? That would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “The INS is the Mickey Mouse Club of federal agencies, and maybe that’s being insulting to Mickey Mouse,” charged Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, who’s pushing a plan to militarize our borders. Popular Fox News Channel commentator Bill O’Reilly has been calling for such a measure for several weeks now, and our elected representatives are finally paying attention.

Congressman Tancredo was incredulous last March when the House passed a bill granting amnesty to some illegal immigrants already living in the U.S.

“People can honestly look at us and say that we have a death wish,” Tancredo said in a radio interview. “I mean, I hate to say it, but what other country in the world would be six months after an event like Sept. 11 without having done a single thing to protect its own borders?” He said the amnesty bill sent a “terrible signal” to foreigners who hope to immigrate to the U.S. legally by rewarding those who “sneak in (and) stay under the radar screen.” Which isn’t the way we do things in a law-abiding country.

And the State Department, which issues visas to foreign visitors and would-be immigrants, sometimes facilitates visas for undesirables. For example, the Department’s official non-immigrant (tourist) visa application actually states that applicants who admit they want to commit terrorist acts may still be acceptable visa candidates.

“Do you seek to enter the U.S. to engage in subversive or other terrorist activities?” the D-156 form asks, before assuring applicants that “a Yes answer does not automatically signify ineligibility for a visa.” Nice!

In another anomaly noted by Congressman Tancredo, a little-known provision of our visa law allows citizens of Saudi Arabia (which produced 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers) who travel regularly to the U.S. to obtain visas through travel agents or “drop boxes” adjacent to American consulates without showing up for personal interviews.

And then there’s the dubious Transit Without Visa Program, which permits those traveling without valid visas — including potential terrorists — to slip out of U.S. airports, if they’re so inclined.

Unfortunately for us, Mexican President Vicente Fox, who advocates “open borders,” and most of his constituents refuse to acknowledge that those who violate our laws are illegal immigrants; for them, the politically correct term is “undocumented workers.” A recent Zogby International Poll revealed that two-thirds of U.S. citizens oppose amnesty for illegal aliens and favor using the U.S. military, at least temporarily, to control our borders. On the other hand, nearly 60 percent of Mexican citizens questioned by Zogby reject border controls on the theory that the U.S. Southwest rightfully belongs to Mexico. This is what we’re up against in attempting to police our southern border, although illegal entries have dropped since Sept. 11.

The 2000 U.S. Census reported that there were nine million people living here who were born in Mexico, and according to the Urban Institute, at least half of those people were here illegally. “Instead of banishing and ignoring Mexicans who moved north, as his predecessors did,” wrote Nicholas Horrock of United Press International, “Fox is trying to capitalize on them, suggesting new relationships … that will blur the border and … blur U.S. citizenship as well.” He was referring to a 1998 Mexican law that recognizes dual citizenship and enables thousands of Mexicans to vote on both sides of the border, a really bad idea.

As for Canada, a two-year-old study by the U.S. Justice Department determined that “the Canadian border is so lightly guarded that there is little to prevent smugglers from easily transporting drugs and weapons into the United States.” That lack of border security is consistent with a liberal Canadian policy that grants political asylum to virtually anyone who requests it, even Middle Easterners with obviously forged identification papers.

A final reason for our failure to control our borders is campaign contributions from large companies — including agri-businesses and Nevada casinos –D that hire and exploit illegal aliens. If you doubt this assertion, just look into the kitchen of any major Nevada casino and tell me how many English-speakers you find. As long as Congress and the White House turn a blind eye to this situation, nothing will happen to stem the flood of illegal immigrants across our porous borders.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.