National Security At the Border

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.

There is no way to estimate how many jihadists may already have crossed into the U.S. from Mexico. But the time to play politics with the border issue is long past. The shallow sloganeering and race-baiting that have dominated the national debate about border controls should be recognized as what they are: hindrances to sane and sensible national defense measures.

Why should we stand idle while those who have vowed to destroy us cross the border with relative impunity? And why isn’t such a question being asked of our presidential candidates at every stop they make on the hustings?