Writing for the Los Angeles Times Scott Gold has written an excellent report on Border Patrol reports on the large surge of illegal immigrants from Mexico who are trying to reach the United States on the belief that Bush will push through an illegal alien amnesty. (free registration required)
Top Border Patrol officials point out that illegal immigration was increasing before Bush's announcement. Detentions rose 6.4% from January 2003 to January 2004. But as word of Bush's proposal and rumors of amnesty spread, apprehensions jumped rapidly — by 14.2% in February, 57.5% in March and 79.6% in April.
The Border Patrol concedes that it only captures a portion of those trying to enter the country illegally. That is particularly worrisome, agents wrote, when Islamic extremists are believed to be establishing a foothold in Latin America. Agents said they were so busy chasing down people who were trying to enter the United States in search of jobs that they could miss those trying to enter with sinister plans."Possible terrorist cell groups may exploit this high influx phenomenon," one agent wrote. "[O]ur immigration system may in fact become over burdened to the point that many individuals may fall through the cracks allowing subjects that may be affiliated with terrorist groups to enter the country without being identified, or stopped."
Let us leave aside the fact that Bush's immigration plan will not make the borders any less chaotic or any more lawful. The fact is that there is a huge surge happening across our southern border with Mexico and the United States government's response is totally inadequate. Surely Al Qaeda must have noticed by now that the US border with Mexico is poorly policed and that many Middle Easterners could sneak across it without even getting spotted by any Border Patrol agents.
Mark Krikorian has written an excellent essay for In The National Interest about the need for a more effective 3 layered approach to immigration control as a way to keep out terrorists. We need a tougher process for visa granting, more effective border control, and more effective interior enforcement of immigration law as he points out in his article Keeping Terror Out: Immigration Policy and Asymmetric Warfare.
There were also failures between the ports of entry. Abdelghani Meskini and Abdel Hakim Tizegha, both part of the Millennium Plot that included Ahmed Ressam, first entered the country as stowaways on ships that docked at U.S. ports. Tizegha later moved to Canada and then returned to the United States by sneaking across the land border. And of course, Abu Mezer, though successfully apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, was later released.
But despite these and other improvements in the mechanics of border management, the same underlying problem exists here as in the visa process: lack of political seriousness about the security importance of immigration control. The Coast Guard, for instance, still considers the interdiction of illegal aliens a “nonsecurity” mission. More importantly, pressure to expedite entry at the expense of security persists; a dhs memo leaked in January outlined how the US-VISIT system would be suspended if lines at airports grew too long. And, to avoid complaints from businesses in Detroit, Buffalo, and elsewhere, most Canadian visitors have been exempted from the requirements of the US-VISIT system.
Also, there is continued resistance to using the military to back up the Border Patrol—resistance that predates the concern for overstretch caused by the occupation of Iraq. But controlling the Mexican border, apart from the other benefits it would produce, is an important security objective; at least two major rings have been uncovered which smuggled Middle Easterners into the United States via Mexico, with help from corrupt Mexican government employees. At least one terrorist has entered this way: Mahmoud Kourani, brother of Hizbollah’s chief of military security in southern Lebanon, described in a federal indictment as “a member, fighter, recruiter and fund-raiser for Hizballah.”
Inadequacies in the first element of interior enforcement have clearly helped terrorists in the past. Because there is no way of determining which visitors have overstayed their visas, much less a mechanism for apprehending them, this has been a common means of remaining in the United States—of the 12 (out of 48) Al-Qaeda operatives who were illegal aliens when they took part in terrorism, seven were visa overstayers.
Among terrorists who were actually detained for one reason or another, several were released to go about their business inside America because of inadequate detention space. This lack of space means that most aliens in deportation proceedings are not detained, so that when ordered deported, they receive what is commonly known as a “run letter” instructing them to appear for deportation—and 94 percent of aliens from terrorist-sponsoring states disappear instead.
Lack of coordination between state and local police and federal immigration authorities is another major shortcoming. In the normal course of their work, police frequently encounter aliens. For instance, Mohammed Atta was ticketed in Broward County, Florida, in the spring of 2001 for driving without a license. But the officer had no mechanism to inform him that Atta had overstayed his visa during his prior trip to the United States. Although not an overstayer, another hijacker, Ziad Samir Jarrah, was issued a speeding ticket in Maryland just two days before 9/11, proving that even the most effective terrorists have run afoul of the law before launching their attacks.
Robert S. Leiken of the Nixon Center has also just weighed in on the issue of immigration and terrorism with his report Bearers of Global Jihad? Immigration and National Security after 9/11 (PDF format).
Immigration and terrorism are linked; not because all immigrants are terrorists but because all, or nearly all, terrorists in the West have been immigrants (we define immigration in its broad usage as signifying visitors and sojourners as well as settlers- see chapter I). In Western countries jihadism has taken root mainly thanks to Muslim immigration. As Rohan Gunaratna, a leading international authority on al Qaeda, told us: “All major terrorist attacks conducted in the last decade in North America and Western Europe, with the exception of Oklahoma City, have utilized migrants” (see chapter I).
The events of September 11 served notice how obsolete the Cold War delimitation of a zone of stability (North America and Western Europe) and an “arc of conflict” (from North Africa to South Asia) had become. The conflicts of the Third World have come home to roost in a way unparalleled in previous periods of colonialism and cold war, of nationalism and communism. Western governments now must take into account the export of violence via migration. Al Qaeda and its affiliates depend on immigration to gain entry to the West in order to carry out terrorist plots. The transnational and asymmetric character of these new conflicts demands coordination of national and homeland security with immigration and foreign policies. Al Qaeda’s immigration strategy
Whereas the West tends to view immigration from an economic standpoint, al Qaeda inc. sees it from a strategic perspective. By al Qaeda inc. we mean groups affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda (see chapter III). Our survey of 212 suspected and convicted terrorists implicated in North America and Western Europe since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 through December 2003 found that 86% were Muslim immigrants, the remainder being mainly converts (8%) and African American Muslims. Analysis of that survey shows that al Qaeda inc. utilizes every immigration category to infiltrate Western countries and the U.S. in particular. Visitor's visas, asylum claims, family reunification, and green cards head our list of 212 suspected or convicted terrorists. Those entering with fraudulent documents are next in line. Terrorists stealing across the Mexican border come last, virtually nil. The Canadian border is more expedient for jihadis thanks to Islamic support networks fostered by indulgent Canadian asylum policies. And terrorists like the shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui came from “visa waiver” countries (countries which do not require a visa for travel to the U.S., such as the E.U. countries). Moreover, especially in Western Europe but also in Lackawanna, N.Y. terrorists were citizens, immigrants of the second generation.
Note that since 9/11 the United States has made visas harder to get and legal immigration methods have become harder for terrorists to use.It seems reasonable to expect terrorists to respond by pursuing illegal border crossings as some have already done. If terrorists are denied visas then sneaking in illegally is the obvious next option available to pursue. Whether illegal entry is done by crossing the border from Mexico or Canada, by jumping off of ships in ports, or via some other method will depend on opportunities that may present themselves. My own prediction is that regardless of how the illegal entries are made we will see a growing portion of future terrorists entering the country surreptitiously.
Leiken argues that immigration control must be used as a defense against terrorists because intelligence and other operations abroad are not sufficient to eliminate the threat.
Intelligence is the nerve system of an effective counterterrorist immigration policy. However, procuring timely, usable intelligence on al Qaeda inc. has proved exceedingly difficult. This human intelligence gap may take years to fill, especially if al Qaeda inc. remains an array of networks. Meanwhile there is a pressing need to continue to detain terrorists abroad (as well as here) for they have proved our best source of information, for liaison with foreign intelligence agencies (encouraging their efficiency and commitment to anti-terrorism), to train our own Arabists and other linguists, to modernize human intelligence and to inculcate relations with our own domestic Muslim communities.
But if intelligence is not a silver bullet and if the “needle” resists discovery, would we be better off trying to trim the “haystack?” The reputation of the INS as the archetypal, blundering, antiquated bureaucracy was well deserved. Now that it has been folded into the embryonic, inchoate DHS and charged with new tasks, we can be forgiven for doubting whether its administrative capacity has improved. Indeed, institutional capacity represents a serious deficiency from intelligence right through immigration (CIA, FBI, DHS). If we choose to maintain our current immigration levels, we shall have to increase administrative resources. The kind of scrutiny that national security now demands of immigration cannot be accomplished with the current correlation of officials and immigrants. Either more government or fewer immigrants.
Improvements in immigration policy to address the terrorist threat have been stymied by all the interest groups in favor of large scale immigration. Our inadequate response to this threat is going to come back to bite us in the form of additional terrorist attacks launched on American soil. While many advocates of mass immigration argue to the contrary immigration law really could be enforced if only the political will existed to do so. Immigration policy is national security policy. It is time that our elites woke up to that fact.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 May 18 01:12 PM Immigration Terrorism|