Ignoring Border Security Will Cost Us More American Lives

Although the heated political debate from the presidential campaign is now over, the business of governance and protecting the homeland remains. One of the issues being addressed by the lame duck Congress is that of reforming the way national intelligence information is gathered, shared, and organized. Reforming the intelligence community is a vital element in waging an effective war on terror, and through this debate an equally important element has resurfaced. Legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives is now stalled, and this is partly due to the fact that important border security measures were excluded from consideration. President George W. Bush says fighting the war on terror is of the utmost importance, and he is right. However, to be serious about fighting the war, America must be focused on winning the war. America must not just have better intelligence to track terrorists and disrupt their plans to cause harm to our citizens on American soil, but America must also stop the terrorists before they enter the country. Thus, the time has come to have an open and honest debate on border security. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that one of the key elements missing from the intelligence reform legislation was that of immigration reform. In particular, Sensenbrenner said that it is far too easy for those who are in America illegally to get driver’s licenses. Sensenbrenner told Fox News that the nineteen hijackers involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had been issued a total of sixty-three valid driver’s licenses. According to reports by Knight Ridder, Sensenbrenner wants to reinsert immigration provisions dropped in earlier negotiations, “such as expedited deportation and unlimited detention of immigrants suspected, but not convicted, of terrorism.” Knight Ridder adds that those provisions had been opposed by the White House. Sensenbrenner is right, and the White House should put politics aside and realize that any homeland security effort is incomplete unless it addresses border security. According to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, among the 4.3 million new immigrants to America since 2000, approximately 2 million are illegal. These illegal aliens don’t just include migrant workers but certainly have in their midst potential terrorists and their allies. The report states that there has been “no major change in policy” regarding illegal immigration since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. According to Steven Camarota, the author of the report, while visa applicants from some parts of the world may have to wait a little longer for approval and a tiny number of illegal aliens from selected countries may have been detained, this does not constitute a major change in policy and has no meaningful impact on the number of people settling in the United States. In a Time magazine feature story from September 20, the authors, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, contrast the typical airline flight experience where shoes, belts, pockets, and laptops are examined with the fact that in a single day, “4,000 illegal aliens will walk across the busiest unlawful gateway into the U.S., the 375-mile border between Arizona and Mexico. No searches for weapons. No shoe removal. No photo-ID checks. Before long, many will obtain phony identification papers, including bogus Social Security numbers, to conceal their true identities and mask their unlawful presence. The Time magazine authors also make the staggering claim, based on their investigation, that the U.S. borders, “rather than becoming more secure since 9/11, have grown even more porous.” Barlett and Steele estimate that three million illegal aliens will enter into the United States in 2004. In addition, while the vast majority are from Mexico, “a small but sharply growing number come from other countries, including those with large populations hostile to the U.S. The article continues by noting, “based on longtime government formulas for calculating how many [illegal aliens] elude capture, that as many as 190,000 illegals from countries other than Mexico have melted into the U.S. population so far this year.” If this fact isn’t enough for the White House and Congress to take notice, I’m not sure what it will take. There are two primary debates involving illegal immigration, and unfortunately, many times they are treated as a single debate which is “off limits” due to political correctness and the desire of elected officials to not be labeled as racist or prejudiced. Whenever a legislator attempts to raise the issue of border security and address illegal immigration, that public servant receives a brand that is hard to shake. Even conservative publications such as the Wall Street Journal and talking heads like Jack Kemp have thrown out the term “anti-immigrant” to describe those who are concerned about America’s security and our borders. The two sub-issues within illegal immigration are what to do about the millions of illegal aliens already within the United States and what to do about preventing more from getting in. The secret to successfully debating the issue of border security is to treat the two sub-issues separately. What should America do with the estimated 8-12 million illegal aliens residing within U.S. borders? Some suggest rounding them all up and deporting them or arresting them. Others suggest granting them amnesty as if no laws were ever broken. President Bush has proposed a guest worker program to fit current illegal aliens with employers who offer jobs which American citizens are unwilling to do. This sub-issue is where the “racism” card is most often played. It is a difficult issue, and one with no easy solution. However, by keeping it as it’s own issue, I believe it would be possible to debate the border issue more effectively. That second sub-issue, that of what to do to keep more illegal aliens from entering the U.S., is one that should be debated, discussed, and addressed with a level-headed focus on protecting the homeland. The primary function of the federal government is to protect its citizens, and to do so, it must be as difficult as possible for potential terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals to enter America illegally. Any legislation that purports to address homeland security, intelligence reform, and any other topic of the war on terror, which does not address border security is not a sincere attempt to make America as safe as possible. Following the debate in the U.S. House on the Intelligence Reform bill, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) said, “The American people want security, and they know it can never be achieved until we can secure our borders. Rushing through a 9/11 bill that doesn’t address border security would have been a disservice to the families of 9/11 victims and to the American people.” Tancredo is right. Border security is not a taboo issue. It is a matter of American security, and it must be addressed before another 9/11 becomes part of our history.