Beltway Beat: Blood money

Posted: Apr 12, 2002 12:00 AM
Congress noted this week that the United States last year paid Iraq about $6.58 billion for oil - money Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is no doubt now using to pay, at $25,000 a pop, to the families of each Palestinian suicide bomber. ALIEN STORIES The chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., has compiled a list of 55 "unbelievable but true immigration stories." While we wish we could retell them all, here's an eye-opening sample: 1) Immigrants who are detained on deportable offenses are often released with a summons to appear at a future hearing. The summons has become sarcastically known as a "run letter" because it simply prompts the alien to run from the law and disappear back into the community undetected. 2) ) The best place to buy fake U.S. documents to gain entry from Mexico is blocks away from the border crossing in Juarez. The best person to ask for help: the Mexican official guarding the gate, who personally advised Tancredo how to obtain and pay for documents. 3) U.S. Border Patrol agents at the Juarez/El Paso, Texas, border sometimes ask border-crossers to step through the "drug-sniffing door," which is simply a wooden door frame on wheels. 4) The town of San Luis, Ariz., has only 3,000 residents but 20,000 post office boxes. The reason? It provides Mexican citizens living across the border with "permanent" U.S. addresses so they can come to the United States and collect public benefits, i.e. welfare checks. 5) Juan Hernandez, head of the federal government's Office of Mexicans Living Outside Mexico, tells Tancredo that the American Southwest/Northern Mexico "is not two countries; it's just a region." 6) Last summer, the Mexican government distributed "survival kits" to Mexicans near the border containing granola bars, water, first-aid supplies and condoms - presumably to make their upcoming illegal journeys into America easier. The next set of stories relate specifically to new U.S. national security concerns post-Sept. 11: 7) State Department form D-156 (the official non-immigrant visa application) asks: "Do you seek to enter the U.S. to engage in subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? A YES answer does not automatically signify ineligibility for a visa." 8) Saudi Arabians wishing to travel to the United States typically are not interviewed by the State Department. They can obtain visas through travel agents or "drop boxes" adjacent to U.S. consulates in the country (15 of the 19 hijackers from Sept. 11 obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia). 9) Through the so-called "diversity visa" program, Uncle Sam encourages people from each of the seven countries on the State Department's terrorist watch list to apply for visas to enter the United States. 10) According to several universities, the Immigration and Naturalization Service routinely takes six months to respond to notifications from school registrars about those foreign students, admitted to the United States solely for education purposes, who don't show up for classes. 11) Since Sept. 11, no action has been taken to tighten the "visa waiver" program, allowing people from 29 countries to enter the United States without a visa or even an interview. DRIVEN TO TERROR Are your neighbors the people they claim to be? That's what Congress will seek to determine Tuesday (April 16) when a Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee examines ID security, especially driver's licenses, the most widely used - and perhaps the least secure and tamper-resistant - form of identification in this country. According to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, which represents chief motor-vehicle administrators and law enforcement officials throughout North America, loopholes in the driver's license framework are some of the biggest threats to the U.S. national security system. In the days after Sept. 11, it was revealed how at least five of the terrorist hijackers obtained state-issued driver's licenses. Four states - Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah - have policies of issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants with no questions asked. PULLING PUNCHES? President Bush, partly for politically correct reasons and partly not to offend the Arab world, is choosing to ignore the real enemy - militant Islam - when referring to his "war on terrorism." "This is the first time to my knowledge that any leader has declared a war against a tactic," Jonathan Schanzer, a research associate with the Middle East Forum, tells this column. Schanzer says it's difficult to fight a global war on "terrorism" when opposing sides, rightly or wrongly, all consider each other to be "terrorists." As a result, not explicitly targeting militant Islam and its brutal totalitarian ideology has been costly to America, says the Middle East researcher, hindering everything from airline security to sensible immigration policies. Worse, it means not identifying potential allies, particularly the moderate majority of Muslims. Bush "has opened a big can of worms," says Schanzer. "We need to define our enemy. We are fighting radical Islamic groups and the terrorism they perpetrate. We are not fighting other 'terrorist' groups like the IRA or the Shining Path - we are going after al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Islamic Army of Aden, the list goes on." If there's any doubt of our enemy, Schanzer notes that 19 of the 19 terrorist hijackers on Sept. 11 were militant Islamists. The same bunch of radicals overwhelms the FBI's "Most Wanted" list. "We're afraid to offend, for politically correct reasons and because we're afraid of ticking off the Arab world," explains Schanzer. "This is not a war against the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. We know who the enemy is." The Middle East Forum is a Philadelphia-based think tank that promotes human rights, peaceful settlement of disputes, and American interests in the region. It also pulls no punches when identifying the region's profusion of dictatorships, radical ideologies, political violence and weapons of mass destruction as a major source of problems for the United States. FLUNKING HISTORY We've obtained a letter from one U.S. congressman who's demanding an apology from Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, who sought to "legitimize" PLO leader Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian terrorists by likening them to George Washington and the American Colonists' struggle for independence. "Even the slightest suggestion of moral equivalence between Arafat and George Washington is insulting, especially coming from someone who professes to be America's friend," Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., writes this week to the Saudi prince and ambassador. "The American people are owed an apology from you for these outrageous, untrue, and intemperate comments, and we trust such an apology with be made forthwith," Hayworth writes. The congressman recalled that George Washington "did not send suicide bombers into the 18th-century equivalent of Sbarros pizza restaurants to blow up women, children, and civilians (and) if the ambassador's goal was to promote understanding and help find a solution, he failed miserably." Hayworth says if an official apology is not forthcoming, he will lead an effort in Congress to condemn the prince's remarks and look for more "concrete" ways to express congressional outrage.