National Security At the Border

Human Events | Robert Spencer | Feb. 19, 2008

Three Afghanis were arrested Wednesday at an international airport in India’s Kerala state for flying with forged Mexican passports. They had just arrived there from Kuwait, where officials examined the passports identifying them as “Antonio Lopez Juan,” “Javier Sanchez Alberto,” and “Atonio Lopez Ernesto,” and found that they didn’t understand any Spanish.

Maybe they were also suspicious of these inept attempts to ape Spanish names.

“Antonio,” “Javier,” and “Atonio” insisted they were trying to get to France, but given their newly-minted Mexican identities, that seems about as likely as the possibility that Hillary Clinton will cede the Democratic nomination gracefully to Barack Obama. Now what could Afghan nationals who don’t speak Spanish want with Mexican passports? Maybe they were really tired of Afghan fare and were craving some enchiladas. Or maybe they were hoping to craft a new brand of Afghan/mariachi music.

From the general level of concern exhibited in official Washington after other evidence of jihadist attempts to cross into the U.S. from Mexico, one might reasonably assume that nothing more worrisome than mariachi is going on. But in the real world, this incident is yet another indication of the national security aspect of the immigration issue.

The warnings have been coming in for years. In June 2004, border patrol agents arrested 77 “Middle Eastern” men attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. Congressman Solomon Ortiz (D-Tex.) said that such attempts are “happening all over the place. It’s very, very scary.” In October of that year, intelligence officials began investigating allegations that 25 nationals from another hotbed of jihad, Chechnya, had crossed into the country across the Arizona border. And the next month, a captured Egyptian jihadist named Sharif al-Masri told interrogators about Al-Qaeda’s plans to “smuggle nuclear materials to Mexico,” where “operatives would carry material into the U.S.” A Bangladeshi Muslim, Fakhrul Islam, was arrested in December 2004 while trying to cross into Texas from Mexico. With him were members of the Central American Mara Salvatruchas gang, which some officials allege has ties to Al-Qaeda.

In June 2005, the FBI uncovered an operation dedicated to smuggling Iranians into the United States from Mexico. Five months later, Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R-NC) said: “They just arrested, down on the border, a couple of weeks ago, three al-Qaeda members who came across from Mexico into the United States.” And in December of that year, immigration crusader Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) revealed that 51 illegal immigrants were arrested on terror-related charges between October 2004 and December 2005. In November 2007, the FBI issued an advisory about a plan by jihadists in league with Mexican drug lords to cross the border via underground tunnels and attack the intelligence training center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, twenty miles from the border with Mexico. “The Afghanis and Iraqis,” one official explained, paid the Mexicans $20,000 or “the equivalent in weapons” for their help in getting into the U.S., and “shaved their beards so as not to appear to be Middle Easterners.”

If all this isn’t an argument for border security, what is? Perhaps the most curious aspect of these stories that are two and three years old is that they didn’t get national attention, and didn’t result in genuine action to secure our borders. But with the latest incident in India, McCain, Hillary, and Obama should be asked pointed questions about their immigration policies, and asked to go beyond the dismissal of immigration controls as “racism” to address the genuine national security issues involved in the continued porous state of our southern border.

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8 thoughts on “National Security At the Border

  1. I fear we will intensely regret President Bush’s resolute determination not to protect our borders. Unfortunately, none of the three front-running Democrats is likely to do any better.

  2. Augie, I’m really afraid that the lack of serious border security and the potential deadly consequences that will follow will be the real legacy of George Bush and his administration. Our enemies are not going to ignore such blatant ignorance and will do everything they can to exploit it. I simply do not understand why Bush and Congress are so out of touch with reality on this issue.

  3. Chris, it looks like neither of us understands the reasons for this. Does anyone have a hypotheses for why so many Republicans, including President Bush and Senator McCain, have refused to get anywhere close to enforcing current U.S. immigration law?

  4. If a determined terrorist wanted to cross into the U.S. it would be just about impossible to stop him or her, especially if the person were reasonably fluent in English or Spanish and had a good-quality fake ID. Here are some interesting statistics that I found on El Paso border crossings from Mexico to the U.S. in July 2001:

    Total people: 4,011,072
    Total vehicles: 1,544,946
    Total aircraft: 352
    Total pedestrians: 666,756
    http://www.nmsu.edu/~frontera/oct01/cros.html

    These are statistics from the U.S. Customs Service. Remember, this is for one month, in one city, with people who crossed legally. Add to that people who crossed illegally (“entry without inspection” is the actual term) and you start to get some idea of the challenge.

    So you can do whatever you want to on the border — barbed wire, land mines, soldiers every 100 meters — but there is still a massive number of people passing through standard border checkpoints.

    But don’t terrorists have to import weapons as well? Not at all. Keep in mind that every terrorist attack in the U.S. has been accomplished with materials available here. The 9/11 attacks were done with domestic aircraft, not foreign aircraft. There is no evidence that the anthrax attacks were done with foreign materials. Tim McVeigh used domestic nitrogen fertilizer and diesel fuel. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was accomplished with similar materials.

    The first biological terrorist attack in the U.S. was done right here in my home state, Oregon, about an hour from where I live. In 1984 the inhabitants of Rajneeshpuram, formerly Antelope, Oregon, infected 750 people with salmonella through attacks on salad bars at 10 restaurants. No one died, but almost 50 ended up in the hospital.

    This is why the whole “weapons of mass destruction” thing in Iraq was so monumentally stupid. It made for good speeches for the many idiots in the Bush administration, but it made no sense in the real world. You want to stage a biological, chemical, or radiological attack in the U.S.? All the supplies are right here. You want Chemical? You surely don’t need some crusty old chemical artillery shell from Saddam. You just make it here. Biological? Same thing. Radioactive? Every day hundreds or thousands of packages of radioactive isotopes are shipped around the country, many of which end up on unsecured receiving docks of universities and hospitals. There’s a whole smorgasboard of stuff here, so there was never any reason why any terrorist with any sense would have been interested in Iraq. It’s all here.

    Look at what happened in Japan. The Aum Shinrikyo cult experimented with a release of Sarin. They tried anthrax. They tried botulism. In 1995 they staged a successful, coordinated sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system. One of their facilities was being prepped to produce what the CDC called “battlefield quantities” of sarin. Again, all of this stuff was home-grown, right in Japan.

    Sorry to be a downer here, but I just don’t see a lot of reason for optimism. As much as I’d like to blame him, most of this has absolutely nothing to do with George Bush’s border policies. It’s just the way the world is. The next terrorist attack on the U.S. will be done by people who are either here legally, or who made it through a Customs inspection. They will use weapons or devices that were constructed here.

  5. Cheap labor

    — per Michael.

    Let’s see. Republicans, who traditionally want to be seen as the defenders of law and order, refuse to enforce immigration law because they want cheap labor.

    So, Democrats, who traditionally want to be seen as defenders of US union members, refuse to enforce immigration law because … because why?

  6. But remember, a lot of that cheap labor is on the other side of the border, in Mexico. A million people work in Mexico in the border factories, or maquiladoras. They make a fraction of the wage that U.S. workers make. When I was in Juarez 15 years ago, the standard wage in a maquiladora was 80 cents per hour. Many of the people live in shantytowns without running water, in houses made of scrap wood and plastic tarps.

    Maquiladoras assemble every kind of product imaginable — cars, TVs, appliances, surgical packs, stereos, clothing, whatever. Of course all of these products are destined for the U.S. and other countries, besides which none of the people who work in the maquiladoras could afford the products they make.

    The huge volume of commercial activity between the U.S. and Mexico, in addition to the large number of routine border crossings means that you can’t have a “closed” border. It would not be possible. It also means that not every truck, thing, and person crossing the border is going to be inspected very much. That’s why, if I were an aspiring terrorist coming from Mexico to the U.S., I wouldn’t cross the border in the middle of the desert. I wouldn’t have to. I would just cross at one of the standard checkpoints — where tens of thousands of other people cross every day, let the Border Patrol officer check out me and my expensive fake documents for ten seconds, and then pass through.

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