Many politicians in Washington, D.C., embrace the myth that they can allow masses of illegal aliens to sneak in from Mexico without increasing the risk of another Sept. 11.
Last week, I debunked that myth with the story of Salim Boughader, the Tijuana restaurateur who specialized in running illegal aliens from the Middle East into San Diego. When one of Boughader's Lebanese clients, 21-year-old Youseff Balaghi, died at a San Diego-area hospital, Border Patrol officials suspected radiation sickness. They checked his remains for exposure.
Balaghi was clean. But Border Patrol agents in that area will now carry radiation detectors.
The clear implication: The government fears terrorists might sneak in from Mexico carrying a dirty bomb.
Well, that was only part of the story.
The Border Patrol knew for years one of Boughader's associates was involved in alien smuggling. But the government decided not to prosecute her for it.
This year, Patricia Serrano-Valdez pleaded guilty to attempting to "conceal, harbor and shield from detection" one of Boughader's clients named Youseff Hussein Hamdan. On June 19, she was sentenced to a 10-month prison term.
This was not the first time Serrano, an illegal alien from Mexico, had been caught alien smuggling. But it was the first time she was held accountable.
Senior Border Patrol Agent John R. Korkin told her story in an affidavit submitted Dec. 12, 2002, in federal court.
The Border Patrol caught Serrano smuggling aliens twice in the late 1990s. Both times the government declined to prosecute and "removed" her to Mexico. In a third incident, her pickup was recovered at the scene of an alien smuggling incident -- but the driver escaped.
Last year, before Serrano was indicted for working with Boughader, she was living at the same San Diego address she gave the Border Patrol in 1998 when she was first arrested for alien smuggling. She had a current California ID listing that residence.
Korkin's affidavit described this address as the "load house" to which Boughader's clients were smuggled.
Here, in the words of Korkin's affidavit, are three events that took place in the years before Serrano was finally prosecuted:
1) "On March 7, 1998, Serrano-Valdez was arrested by USBP (U.S. Border Patrol) Agents in San Clemente, California for Alien Smuggling. Serrano was discovered in the act of transporting four (4) undocumented aliens concealed in the car trunk of a vehicle she was driving when encountered. Prosecution was declined and Serrano was formally removed to Mexico."
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