Conservative Spotlight: Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement


“I went to China in 1995 as an open-borders extremist,” said Craig Nelsen, director of Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement (FILE). “In my 20s, I actually had an article published in New York calling for open borders. . . . [The Chinese sojourn] radically changed my views on things like culture, language, population, and, of course, immigration.” Two years after returning from China in 1997, Nelsen founded Project USA in New York City, and since moved to Washington, D.C. About a year ago, Project USA started up FILE.

“It’s one thing to change public opinion and get laws passed and it’s another thing to make sure those laws are enforced,” said Nelsen. “We do have many good laws on the books about immigration that aren’t being enforced. No matter where they stand on immigration, all the people involved with FILE believe we should enforce the laws we have. . . . In China, they are advertising human smuggling [to the United States] right on the street.”

“Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement is an association of attorneys, researchers, law enforcement officers, legislators, and other experts working on behalf of Americans to ensure that immigration law is being enforced,” says FILE on its website. “FILE assists in filing lawsuits and complaints and helps Americans who have been harmed by our government’s failure to enforce immigration law.”

Despite the horror of 9/11, America’s borders are still very unsecure, said Nelsen, and some influential people want to keep it that way. “Many members of FILE are Border Patrol agents, and according to them to a man, a Border Patrol agent who is gung-ho, who apprehends large numbers of illegal aliens…not only is he not encouraged or rewarded for his initiative, he is punished,” said Nelsen.

But America’s illegal immigration problem goes well beyond her porous borders. Illegal aliens have little trouble obtaining benefits when they make it past the Border Patrol. FILE is trying to eliminate some of those benefits. “According to federal law, if a state offers discounted, ‘in-state’ post-secondary tuition aid to illegal aliens, it must also offer the same aid to all Americans regardless of residency. However, four states currently give tuition breaks to illegal aliens, but charge American citizens from other states higher tuition fees,” says FILE. “If you are a student attending any public post-secondary school in Utah, California, Texas, or New York, or some schools in Georgia, and are paying ‘out-of-state’ tuition, you may be entitled to a refund.”

Recently, FILE has helped to take the lead in opposing the spread of the acceptance of a Mexican ID card. “The matricula consular is an identification card issued by the Mexican government to its citizens illegally residing in the United States,” it says. “We oppose acceptance of this card by U.S. institutions because it encourages illegal immigration.”

Nelsen said that Rep. Charlie Norwood (R.-Ga.) is working on a bill that “would do a great deal to facilitate cooperation between local law enforcement and the federal government in enforcing immigration law.” One thing it would remedy, said Nelsen, is the reluctance of local law enforcement to deal with violations of immigration law due to “inadequate federal resources.”

The INS has been taken over by the Department of Homeland Security, whose new immigration subdivisions “are cleaning house, heads are rolling,” Nelsen said. “Interior enforcement is the key to everything. Right now, our immigration policy is like leaving a wad of cash on the seat of a car in a poor neighborhood and booby-trapping the door handle.” But far too often, he said, the government is trying to target national security threats while leaving our borders open to other illegals-an inherently unsafe strategy, in any case. “They are trying to make a distinction between the Mexican who wants to work for the prevailing wage and the Saudi Arabian illegal,” he said. “They are acting irresponsibly and they should be blamed if there is another terrorist attack.”

FILE would also like to end the practice of granting citizenship to the children, such as alleged Taliban fellow traveler Yaser Esam Hamdi, born here of illegal alien parents. “After careful consideration, FILE believes the U.S. government should reclassify Hamdi as a Saudi national and return him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Such legal status would relieve the government of the burden of prosecuting Mr. Hamdi as an American. . . . FILE believes the custom of granting birthright citizenship to children born in the United States to illegal aliens, temporary workers, and tourists is supported neither by the 14th Amendment nor by legal precedent,” says FILE.

FILE may be reached at 310 6th St. S.E., 2nd floor, Washington, D.C. 20003 (202-543-2323; e-mail:; website: