Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship, told HUMAN EVENTS he has seen anecdotal evidence of Arabic belongings–including juice boxes with Arabic writing and an image of a plane hitting a building–that were discovered in Larado, Tex., near the Mexican border.
Cornyn, one of the key players in the ongoing debate over immigration reform, said he learned of the discoveries when he was shown pictures of them by a government official.
When asked why the White House wouldn’t make such information publicly available–particularly in light of the threat of al Qaeda–Cornyn said it’s a matter of intelligence. However, he disclosed the details of the two items in an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS.
Cornyn is sponsoring with Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act (S. 1438), which includes border security and worksite enforcement measures along with a guest-worker program that penalizes with fines illegal aliens who refuse to leave the United States.
This is the second part of Cornyn’s interview with the editors of HUMAN EVENTS. Yesterday we featured his comments on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
Noises out of the White House seem to indicate that one thing the President is going to be active in pursuing as an agenda item in the next year is immigration reform. Central to his idea of immigration reform is a guest-worker program. You are a sponsor of an immigration reform proposal. Could you sketch out the major provisions of that?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R.-TEX.): I don’t think it’s in terms of conviction, but I think in terms of message, the President stumbled out of the gate when he talked about a guest-worker program being the central feature of his immigration reform plan. The message that America wants to hear, and the message that America needs, is security.
|Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.)
We’re seeing that now, not just in places like Texas and border states, but also across the nation. People realize instinctively in a post-9/11 world that we have to know who is coming into our country and why they are here. We have no confidence of that now. We have flawed policies like the catch-and-release program. Border security has been inadequately funded, inadequately staffed. We simply have to gain security at the border. It can’t just be border security. We have to deal with it in the interior. Right now, once you get by the border, you’re home free. You melt into the landscape. And we need to deal with it at the workplace.
Adm. James Loy, who is the deputy secretary for Homeland Security, testified before the Intelligence Committee earlier this year that they had reason to believe that al Qaeda had looked at coming across the Mexican border to infiltrate the United States because it would give them greater operational security, I think he said. Do you think that’s a credible threat? Do you have reason to believe that al Qaeda might want to come across our border?
CORNYN: Absolutely. Why not? It’s easy to do.
Do you have any information yourself about that?
CORNYN: I don’t have any information that’s it has actually happened.
What about people telling you that it’s likely to happen?
CORNYN: To me, it’s just obvious, because if you have an open door for someone to walk through, why would you climb over the wall. I think, essentially, our border in between our points of entry are—it’s the wild, wild west.
But wouldn’t you have greater support for your bill, in other words, if you could get immigration authorities to say, ‘Here’s what we know about al Qaeda’?
CORNYN: I think they’re reluctant to talk about intelligence, but I will tell you that with my own eyes I have seen from Border Patrol anecdotal reports. Two examples: Juice boxes with Arabic writing on them that were collected by agents around the Laredo area.
Those juice boxes were actually showed to you by Border Patrol people?
CORNYN: I saw pictures of them.
Was it a Border Patrol people who showed them to you?
CORNYN: It was a federal government employee.
And the second [picture] I saw was of a jacket that was found—a piece of clothing—that had a patch on it with Arabic writing. I don’t read Arabic, so I don’t know what it said. But it had a picture of a plane flying into a tall building on it.
Where was that recovered?
CORNYN: That was in the Laredo area.
Was it the same source who showed you? You actually saw the jacket?
CORNYN: I saw the picture of the jacket, as I saw the picture of the juice boxes.
And you have no question about the credibility of this government official who was showing you this material?
CORNYN: I have no reason to question him.
Is there any way you could go back to him and get this out? If people saw that, it would be the kind of thing that would also force the White House to deal with that aspect.
CORNYN: To some extent, people are in denial. Every time I talk about the vulnerability of our Southern border, people say the 9/11 people came her legally and that’s a problem, and then they overstayed. Or they say, our Northern border is longer and easier to penetrate. But it just seems so obvious to me that a coyote, a human smuggler, who charges $1,500 to bring in a bartender or construction worker, would also, for the appropriate price, bring in somebody from a country of special interest. And, in fact, that is well known to the federal government.
Are you familiar with specific cases of smugglers who were, in fact, bringing in Middle Eastern nationals into the United States?
CORNYN: I wouldn’t quite go that far. I am familiar with the fact that they are open for business, and there would be no reason for them to turn down that business. We’re talking about organized crime networks of human smugglers that use Mexico as a transit point. I’ve visited with government officials with access to intelligence who tell me that, for example, Mexico is a transit point for smuggling from Asia into the Balkans, into the E.U. or back into Central or South America and up through our Southern border.
Smuggling drugs or people?
CORNYN: People. But they don’t care what it is—guns, weapons, people—anything that pays money. That’s what they’re in business for.
What does your bill do to increase border security?
CORNYN: It adds 10,000 Border Patrol agents over the period of the next five years. It adds significant amounts of money for technology. Right now, we have sensors to detect intrusions, but there are not enough Border Patrol agents or equipment to then respond to those intrusions. We have cameras that may or may not work well.
How many Border Patrol people do we have now across the border?
CORNYN: We have about 11,000 now, and we’re doubling that.
But don’t you think it has to be more like 100,000?
CORNYN: Part of the problem is that in the intelligence reform bill and the Homeland Security bill we have ratcheted up the number of Border Patrol, but they tell us under current circumstances they can only train about 1,500 per year. So we need to get more trainers.
But we need a longer-term commitment and not just a one-shot commitment to that. It’s clear we need more people. And I guess it’s arguable whether 10,000 is enough or whether we need more. I personally believe technology can be our eyes and ears, and what we need is a rapid response for intrusions across the border.