"People are coming here with bad intentions. I know of 10 that have been detained at my station alone," said a Border Patrol agent whose identity has been withheld at his request. He said this is something that agents have been told not to talk about.
"We know for a fact that people coming from the Middle East are now coming into Mexico and spending a year, even two years in Mexico, to learn how to speak Spanish," the Border Patrol agent told NBC4.
"The key is to pass yourself off as a Mexican," said retired Army Colonel Ben Anderson. He has been following what he calls the terrorist trail and connecting the dots on his website.
While the Border Patrol agents are intimidated into anonymity or silence by the Bush Administration the government's official message is to downplay the threat of terrorists crossing over from Mexico. The official US government line is that no terrorists have passed into the United States through Mexico.
MEXICO CITY - Top U.S. and Mexican authorities said that they have taken significant steps to increase security along their shared border but acknowledged that it is a "very attractive" possible route for terrorists wanting to harm the United States.
No terrorists are believed to have crossed into the United States from Mexico, but the U.S. and Mexican security chiefs underscored the importance of not letting down their guard against potential threats.
Hundreds of thousands or millions of people pass over the border illegally every year. Some small fraction who are caught are from the Middle East. As near as I can tell the US government will not release numbers on how many are from the Middle East. If anyone can find information from the government on Middle Easterners caught on the Mexican border please email me or post in the comments. But however many Middle Easterners do cross over the US-Mexican border it seems highly likely that, like the Mexicans who cross, most will not be caught by the Border Patrol.
Another agent, of supervisory rank, stated, "The smuggling traffic of Mexicans has really slowed. We are experiencing a tremendous increase in OTMs" – border lingo for "other than Mexicans." When queried about the ethnic make up of the OTMs, he answered, "Central and South Americans, Orientals and Middle-Easterners." Middle-Easterners? "Yeah, it varies, but about one in every 10 that we catch, is from a country like Yemen or Egypt.
So how many OTMs are being caught in 2004 and what fraction of them are from the Middle East? Has that fraction declined or increased since 2001?
According to the report, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol in Washington, D.C., said 99.4 percent of the 955,310 people apprehended by the agency from Oct. 1, 2001, through Sept. 30, 2002, were from the Americas, which includes Canada, Mexico and other Central and South American nations. The remainder comes from 140 countries.
Here is what is especially infuriating. Not only are Middle Easterners sneaking into the United States undetected. But even many of those caught crossing the border illegally are eventually released with orders to appear voluntarily at a future legal hearing.
Patrol agents told one Arizona newspaper that 77 males "of Middle Eastern descent" were apprehended in June in two separate incidents. All were trekking through the Chiricahua mountains and are believed to have been part of a larger group of illegal immigrants. Many were released pending immigration hearings. According to Solomon Ortiz, the Congressman for Corpus Christi in Texas, similar incidents are "happening all over the place. It's very, very scary".
The two groups of Arab males were discovered by patrol guards from Willcox, Arizona. "These guys didn't speak Spanish," said one field agent, "and they were speaking to each other in Arabic. It's ridiculous that we don't take this more seriously. We're told not to say a thing to the media." A colleague told the paper: "All the men had brand-new clothing and the exact same cut of moustache." Local ranchers have also reported a rise in the sightings of large groups of young males.
Note the theme running through many news reports that quote anonymous Border Patrol agents: The agents are instructed to keep the public from learning about what is going.
To make matters worse, the Department of Homeland Security is so hopelessly overstretched that it has taken to releasing what it calls OTMs (Other Than Mexicans) because it cannot house them until it arranges for deportation hearings.
Fewer than 30 per cent of the OTMs released into the US actually show up for their hearings, meaning an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens are currently in the US after being caught and released.
Officially, fewer than 100 border jumpers apprehended along the Mexican borders within the last year were from nations associated with Islamic terrorism.
However, Travis said that few of these people had identification papers, and many lied and said they were from South America in order to evade attention and have a better chance of being released.
'We have heard from border patrol agents that they're being told to let people who look like they're from East Africa and the Middle East go because they say their name is Juan Pablo Garcia from Guatemala - except that they don't speak a word of Spanish,' she said.
"The law does not differentiate based on nationality. So enforcement does not differ based on nationality," says Reed Little, Detention and Enforcement Officer for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He added that ICE officials must justify their actions before immigration judges.
Asked if a 25-year-old man from Saudi Arabia would be treated at all differently from other illegal aliens coming across the Mexican border, ICE spokesman Manny Van Pelt said, "No."
Van Pelt said the government's general practice is to release apprehended aliens into the United States without requiring bond pending their deportation hearing, unless they have criminal records, are flagged in a government database as a potential threat, or their interviews with agents reveal a potential threat.
Ethnic profiling would reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.
There really are people out there who would love to get into the United States and cause enormous damage. Egyptian Sharif al-Masri, captured along the Pakistan-Iran border in August 2004, has told interrogators Al Qaeda has considered smuggling nuclear material into the United States through Mexico.
Masri also said al-Qaeda has considered plans to "smuggle nuclear materials to Mexico, then operatives would carry material into the U.S.," according to the report, parts of which were read to TIME. Masri says his family, seeking refuge from al-Qaeda hunters, is now in Iran.
Of course, Al Qaeda would have to acquire such materials. My guess is that at this point the best they could do would be to get the nuclear materials needed for a dirty bomb which would use a conventional chemical explosive to spread radioactive material over a large area. But terrorists can kill a lot of people with well-placed non-nuclear bombs.
One thing is for sure: We are protected more by the limits of Al Qaeda's talents and resources than we are by US government policy toward our borders.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 November 15 01:44 AM Immigration Terrorism|