After 30-something years of mass immigration, legal and illegal, the
immigration issue finally tiptoed into the national political discussion
in the third and final presidential debate this month, with moderator
Bob Schieffer acknowledging that he had received more e-mail about
that issue than any other. Neither candidate, of course, had anything
serious, intelligent or even true to say about the subject, but at
least it was mentioned. Of course by now it may be too late to talk
about it at all.
It may too late to talk about it because the immediate danger immigration
presents to our national safety may already have materialized. If pregnant
Mexican women can sneak over the border, there's every reason to think
that terrorists can. But if they do, we may not know about it until
they let us know themselves.
Speaking in Nogales, Arizona, last month, Homeland Security czar Tom
Ridge proudly informed the state where 40 percent of illegal aliens
enter the country that he had seen no sign of terrorist efforts to
cross the border. Mr. Ridge was in Nogales to "announce two high-tech
lanes for cutting waiting times for commercial trucks at the port of
to local television reports. Not to worry about terrorism, you see,
when high-tech trade with Mexico is on the platter.
That was just before the Washington Times reported, on Sept. 29, that
law enforcement authorities say that "A top al Qaeda lieutenant
has met with leaders of a violent Salvadoran criminal gang with roots
in Mexico and the United States — including a stronghold in the Washington
area — in an effort by the terrorist network to seek help infiltrating
the U.S.-Mexico border."
The distinguished visitor form the terrorist group that brought us
the World Trade Center attacks is a gentleman named Adnan G. El Shukrijumah,
who was observed in Canada last year and is said to have been seeking
to obtain materials with which he could construct a "dirty bomb," a
conventional explosive with radioactive materials. The gentleman is
also, the Times reported again on Oct. 5, "believed by authorities
to have met with alien smugglers in Mexico and Honduras, seeking help
in bringing al Qaeda members illegally into the United States." This
is what Mr. Ridge said he has "seen no sign" of.
The smugglers in question are members if the Salvadoran gang Mara
Salvatrucha, a band of thugs and killers active in this country as
well as Central America, thanks to the accomplishments of the Open
Borders lobby over the years. Mr. Ridge really ought to read the newspapers
Apparently, Mr. Ridge did, because a couple of weeks later, speaking
in Canada, Mr. Ridge told an audience that "There isn't a day
that goes by, literally, where a couple of people aren't turned away
from our borders because they are associated in some manner, shape
or form with terrorists or terror-related organizations." That,
of course, is a blatant contradiction of what he said in Nogales earlier.
But maybe "turning people away from our borders" refers
merely to aliens trying to cross legally. The more serious concern
in national security is those who try to cross illegally — like the
esteemed El Shukrijumah.
But then, not to worry about him, because the new chief of the federal
police force in Mexico says there's no danger from terrorists anyway. "Up
until now, we have not detected one terrorist in this country," Adm.
Jose Luis Figueroa told a news conference in Mexico City a week after
his appointment. Later he added, "I don't think the border is
a place, a target, for fundamentalist Islam movements."
As is the case with Mr. Ridge, of course, it really doesn't matter
what the new chief thinks about any of it, and we may all be better
off not knowing what he thinks. What matters is whether Al Qaeda or
other terrorists really are entering the country and what either the
Mexican or the U.S. government are doing to stop that. As used to be
said of spies, it's not the ones you catch you need to worry about;
it's the ones you don't that cause problems.
The fact that Mr. Schieffer — not either of the two candidates —
finally decided to bring up the subject of illegal immigration in a
presidential debate should not disguise the larger truth that this
was the first time in this election — and indeed apparently the first
time in any election in the last 30 years — that the immigration issue
has been mentioned at all. As what Mr. Ridge and Admiral Figueroa said
suggests, there's no reason to believe it will be mentioned again —
until, perhaps, we hear more from Mr. El Shukrijumah and his friends
in Mexico and Central America.
[This column was originally published by Creators Syndicate on October
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Political pundit Samuel Francis was an author
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THE WASHINGTON TIMES, he received the Distinguished Writing Award
for Editorial Writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors
in both 1989 and 1990.
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