What does fighting terrorism have to do with stemming massive
illegal immigration? Much more than government officials have been willing
to let on over the past year.
When September 11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar
needed help getting fraudulent government-issued photo IDs before embarking
on their suicide mission, they hopped into a van and headed to the parking
lot of a 7-Eleven store in Falls Church, Va. That's where scores of migrant
day laborers -- the kind whom immigration advocates refer to as
"undocumented" -- gather to find work and ply bogus identity papers.
Nearly one year after the terrorist attacks, I drove to the
7-Eleven that Hanjour and Almihdhar visited. It's a stone's throw from the
Pentagon, where Hanjour and Almihdhar deliberately crash-landed American
Airlines Flight 77. The parking lot was, as usual, filled with Hispanic day
laborers. Local cops suspect that most of these men are here illegally and
that they continue to facilitate trade in fake identification documents. But
nobody arrests them.
This is an all-too-familiar scene from the border states to the
heartland. Public officials talk tough about the need for improved
cooperation among local, state and federal authorities to fight terrorism.
Yet, several major cities, including the home of Ground Zero, continue to
serve as safe havens for illegal aliens -- and as magnets for immigration
outlaws with more nefarious aspirations.
Falls Church, Va., is an informal sanctuary, where the local
government maintains a hands-off attitude toward illegal aliens unless they
commit other crimes besides immigration violations. Several major cities
have actually incorporated this policy formally.
Los Angeles led the way by declaring itself an official
sanctuary for illegal aliens in 1979, when the city police commission issued
an order at the city council's behest barring cooperation between local cops
and the INS. Special Order 40 also forbids police from questioning anyone
about immigration status until after criminal charges have been made.
Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and New York City all adopted similar
policies -- and cling to them today.
Barely two months after the September 11 attacks, New York City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated his commitment to preserve the Big Apple as a
formal sanctuary for illegal aliens. "People who are undocumented do not
have to worry about city government going to the federal government,"
This assurance was stunning coming from the new mayor of a city
still covered in rubble as a result of foreign terrorists who exploited our
lax immigration policies at every turn. But Bloomberg was simply following
in the bipartisan footsteps of his predecessors. New York City's sanctuary
policy was created in 1989 by Mayor Ed Koch and upheld by every mayor
When Congress enacted immigration reform laws that forbade local
governments from barring employees from cooperating with the INS, Mayor Rudy
Giuliani filed suit against the feds in 1997. He was rebuffed by two lower
courts, which ruled that the sanctuary order amounted to special treatment
for illegal aliens and were nothing more than an unlawful effort to flaunt
federal enforcement efforts against illegal aliens. In January 2000, the
Supreme Court rejected his appeal, but Giuliani vowed to ignore the law.
The Twin Towers are gone and Giuliani is out of office, but the
city's policy of safe harbors for illegal immigrants stands.
The overwhelming majority of illegal aliens, of course, have no
connection to terrorism. But our continued high tolerance for massive
illegal immigration gives terrorists deadly cover. More than half of the 48
Islamic radicals convicted or tied to recent terrorist attacks on the U.S.
over the past decade either were themselves illegal aliens or relied on
illegal aliens to obtain false identification documents.
Illegal aliens participated in the first attack on the World
Trade Center, the Los Angeles Millennium bombing plot and the New York
subway bombing plot. Three of the September 11 hijackers were here illegally
at the time of their attacks.
Shoring up our consular offices abroad, tightening visa issuance
policies for tourists and legal permanent residents, and improving border
security are only part of the battle against terrorism. Homeland defense
also requires vigorous interior enforcement of immigration laws against all
those who slip through the cracks.
Repealing sanctuary laws in our major metropolitan centers is a
small but long overdue first step.