Political Pandering?at the Expense of our Security

Posted: Jan 07, 2004 12:00 AM

 After 3,000 Americans were murdered on a single day, common sense should have dictated that political pandering would finally take a back seat?if only marginally?to the most serious of security concerns. 

  But barely two years later, craven political concerns are about to feast at the expense of our security.

  In an election year pursuit of Hispanic votes, President Bush is prepared to embark on the ill-advised path to providing some sort of amnesty to 8 million illegal aliens.  Perhaps Bush thinks that enhanced scrutiny and enforcement?things the President will combine with his calls for amnesty?can screen out terrorists from those applying for amnesty.  The evidence, however, tells a different story.

  As it is, our immigration administrators are swamped.  The current backlog of cases awaiting adjudication is over 4.5 million.  In other words, we can?t even handle the caseload we have now.  Throw in 8 million new people, and you have an instant recipe for an administrative fiasco.

  Never mind that 8 million new cases will undoubtedly further slow the process for those who played by the rules and are trying to immigrate legally.  Never mind that 8 million illegal aliens will, in all likelihood, get to step in front of those decided to follow?and respect?the law.  Focusing solely on security, overwhelming an already overwhelmed system means that cracks will turn into fault lines.

  Even lavishing millions of dollars will not change the fundamental fact that processing people?verifying documents, running background checks?takes time and administrative procedures that are equipped to handle the workload.  Weeding out some of the bad guys won?t be enough; not many terrorists need to sneak through to create chaos.

  Suggesting that terrorists might take advantage of amnesty is not mere speculation.  It happened during the last round of widespread amnesty, in 1986.

  Convicted terrorist Mahmud Abouhalima won amnesty from a program intended to help Hispanic farm workers.  Upon attaining amnesty, Abouhalima worked with fellow Islamic terrorist Ramzi Yousef to hit a longtime al Qaeda target: the World Trade Center.  And on February 26, 1993, they succeeded, killing six and injuring more than 1,000.

  But striking the World Trade Center wasn?t enough.  Radical Islamic terrorists kept streaming into this country in order to murder more innocent Americans.  It?s true that all the September 11 hijackers entered not through illegal immigration but on legal visas.  But that was a matter of convenience; they went with what was easiest.

  If Bush is successful in enacting a new full-scale amnesty plan, then a new red carpet will have been rolled out.  It could have the same results that easy visas for Saudis did.

  Last year, this columnist obtained the visa applications of 15 of the 19 terrorists?including those of 14 of the 15 Saudis in the group?and six different current former consular officers who reviewed them all agreed that not one of those applications should have qualified for a visa under the law.  The forms were so bad, in fact, that the terrorists couldn?t have gotten Blockbuster cards to rent videos, yet they were given visas to enter the United States.

  Why did this happen?

  Consular officers told government investigators that they issued visas even to those Saudis they felt didn?t qualify under the law because of pressure from above.  Their superiors had made it clear that it was de facto policy that Saudis receive visas, no matter how poorly filled out the paperwork was or how much information was missing. 

  So it was no coincidence that al Qeada chose to use mostly Saudis.  Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, reportedly told authorities that easy visas was the main reason so many Saudis were recruited.

  Imagine processing over 8 million ?undocumented? immigrants?meaning that the documents they provide could very well be fraudulent?and it is not tough to imagine 19 terrorists slipping through at the same time.  It could be 19 people already here or some who come here armed with forged documents.  And amnesty creates a new means for terrorists to create new, ?untainted? identities?further hampering tracking efforts.

  Let?s hope it doesn?t take another terrorist attack for political pandering to give way to security.