Bush's Immigration Message Undermines His Message on Terrorism

It’s the borders, stupid! President Bush is having a hard time selling to voters his War on Terror, despite endless repetitive speeches arguing that we must fight the terrorist enemy in Iraq or we will fight them here.

Truly, the White House should not be surprised when polls reflect that this time the message has not taken hold. Why? In this past spring and summer, the U.S. public has become amply aware that Bush has no serious intent of securing our borders. Instead, the building evidence, including that derived from FOIA requests by this author and by Judicial Watch, is that Bush agreed to erase our borders at the trilateral U.S.-Mexico-Canada summit meeting in Waco, Tex., on March 23. Here the three leaders issued what amounts to a press release declaring that now we are in the “Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America.”

We have incontrovertible proof that terrorists have crossed our border with Mexico. On March 1, 2005, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani pleaded guilty to federal charges of using meetings at his home in Dearborn, Michigan, to raise money for Hezbollah’s terrorist activities in Lebanon. Kourani was an illegal alien who had been smuggled across our border with Mexico after the bribed a Mexican consular official in Beirut to get him a visa to travel to Mexico. Kourani and a Middle East traveling partner then paid smugglers in Mexico to get them into the United States. He established residence among the Lebanese expatriate community in Dearborn, Michigan, and began soliciting funds for Hezbollah terrorists back home. Kourani was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison.

In December 2002, Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, a café owner in Tijuana, was arrested for smuggling more than 200 Lebanese illegally into the United States, including several believed to have terrorists ties to Hezbollah. Operating the posh La Libanese Café in downtown Tijuana, Boughader held court in his restaurant under the sign of the Cedar tree, the national symbol of Lebanon.

In writing “Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders,” with Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, we wrote chapter 7, titled “Terrorists, Please Cross Here!” deploring the terrorism threat our open borders with Mexico and Canada present. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in the May 2005 report, titled “Building a North American Community,” express what appears to be the goal of SPP — namely, to defend only the perimeter border around North America while increasingly erasing our borders with Mexico and Canada by issuing in 2007 electronic Trusted Trader border passes to Canadian and Mexican trucks and other commercial entities and by issuing next year Trusted Traveler bio-metric cards to Mexican and Canadian citizens. How can North America be secure when the perimeter includes Mexico, a drug cartel-controlled corrupt state where any terrorist with money can buy their way in?

On October 4, Bush, in a scenic outdoor setting surrounded by Arizona mountains, signed a new homeland security spending bill that included $1.2 billion for building the 700-mile fence that Congress had overwhelmingly voted to build along our nearly 2,000 mile-long border with Mexico. Before the ink was even dry, Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) cautioned that there was no resolve by either Congress or the Bush Administration to follow through with sufficient appropriations to actually see that even this limited 700-mile fence would actually get built.

Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum has written insightfully about a Bush 2004 campaign video that gives insight into Bush’s evidently long-standing determination to pursue an open border and open immigration policy, especially with Mexico. According to Schlafly, the Bush campaign video, originally discovered by the Los Angeles Times, was “secretly mailed to Latino voters all over the country.”

Schlafly notes that the 2004 campaign video shows a clip of Bush waving a Mexican flag, apparently a clip that the Los Angeles Times documented was shot during a Mexican Independence Day parade in San Antonio in 1998, in Bush’s gubernatorial re-election campaign. In his own voice, Bush narrated: “About 15 years before the Civil War, much of the American West was northern Mexico. The people who lived there weren’t called Latinos or Hispanics. They were Mexican citizens, until all that land became part of the United States. After that, many of them were treated as foreigners in their own land.”

This statement defies the historical record. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican war did cede to the United States large sections of what today are California, New Mexico and Arizona, while agreeing to pay Mexico up to $20 million and assuming up to $3 million in the claims U.S. citizens had against Mexico. Mexicans who wanted to continue residing in this territory were offered U.S. citizenship.

Pursuing ancient land claims as a right to current nation status has largely been a pointless and destructive exercise worldwide. Why consider that the Mexicans are the rightful “owners” of the land ceded in the 1848 treaty? How about the Indian tribes who occupied this land centuries before the Mexicans? Are we to go back to the paleo-origins of the American Indian tribes and debate whether an ancient Siberian-Alaskan land bridge was the entry route for the American Indian tribes to come into the continent?

The point here is that Bush’s now-surfaced 2004 campaign video leaves no doubt that Bush himself has a conscious policy of wooing Hispanic votes, to the point where open borders and unrestrained Hispanic illegal immigration have effectively been the operative Bush policy through the first six years of his presidency. How is this consistent with a rigorous war on terrorism when we face the amply documented threat that criminals, drug dealers, gangs such as the El Salvadorian MS-13, and terrorists entering the U.S. along with the economic immigrants looking for work?

The vulnerability of Bush’s argument on Iraq is that “fighting terrorists in Iraq” is not necessarily a sure way to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S., especially when the administration views securing our borders as more important for voters to hear than for voters to see. In a politically motivated editorial, the Los Angeles Times commented the next day on Bush’s October 11 press conference, calling his references combining the war in Iraq with the war on terror as a “deliberate repetition of a shameless canard just before an election.” The editorial observed:

Fighting the terrorists “over there” does not necessarily make us safer “over here.” This is not to say that there is no relation at all between Iraq’s fate and the threat of terrorism to the U.S. But the relationship is not as simplistic as the president describes it.

In response to the last question at the same October 11 press conference, Bush took the opportunity to plug his “guest worker” program, commenting that “in order to make sure the border is fully secure, we need a guest worker program, so people aren’t sneaking in the first place.” Transparently, the Bush administration continues to search for some methodology to legitimate all those millions who have entered the U.S. illegally as well as the million more planning to do the same. If all “illegal immigrants” are declared “guest workers,” “trusted travelers,” or “trusted traders,” then the problem of illegal immigration goes away, by definition. Yet truthfully the problem of criminals, drug dealers, gang members, and terrorists coming across the border will not be solved by a definitional change that amounts to an amnesty plus continued open borders.

White House political adviser Karl Rove would be well advised to consider the dismal experience of Richard Nixon’s presidency. When pressed by the Vietnam War and later by Watergate, President Nixon’s strategy was to give repeated and largely repetitive press conferences and speeches, all in the belief that his message had not been heard. Bush’s problem is that his message on open borders and open immigration has been hea The reality is that the message having been understood is being rejected by Red State voters and by the Republican Party’s core base of Christian conservatives. When Richard Nixon lost his base, he lost his presidency.

Right now many conservatives are being reminded by the immigration debate that Republicans are not necessarily conservatives. Since Ronald Reagan, many conservatives have slipped into supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats on the theory that Republican electoral victories would advance a conservative agenda. That Senators Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and John McCain (R.-Ariz.) could co-sponsor S. 2611 is enough evidence for many conservatives to conclude that on the issue of immigration there was not much difference between the two parties.

Perhaps Ronald Reagan was wrong in supporting Barry Goldwater in 1964, under the assumption that the Republican Party could be reformed in a conservative direction from within. We would have today a drastically different political environment if only Howard Phillips had succeeded in convincing Ronald Reagan not to endorse Goldwater, but to form his own, independent conservative political party.

Should the Republican Party suffer the anticipated setback in the upcoming mid-term elections, perhaps Karl Rove will finally give thought to revising the message on immigration in a conservative direction. To accomplish this, however, Rove will have to get Bush to stop waving the Mexican flag.