Free ride for foreign ship-jumpers

Posted: Jul 17, 2002 12:00 AM
While Washington buzzes over President Bush's homeland security plan to secure America's borders, untold numbers of foreigners continue to pour into our country illegally through limitless unsecured cracks and crevices. Joining the ranks of the estimated 9 million to 11 million illegal aliens already in the United States -- most of whom Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner James Ziglar has said he has no interest in removing -- are four Pakistani nationals who jumped ship on Sunday near New Orleans. Amad Khan, 26, M. Ilyas Khan, 33, Waheed Khan, 25, and Ali Shah, 22, were working aboard a grain ship docked on the Mississippi River. They received instructions not to leave the ship as "part of a standard INS order," according to the Associated Press. But as with so many standard INS orders, rules and regulations, the toothless instructions to stay on board were ignored with impunity. The crewmen simply skipped out of their morning roll call and hailed a taxicab, which dropped them off at a bus station. They were reportedly headed to Houston, but local, state and federal officials had found no trace of them as of this writing. Law enforcement authorities would like us to believe that these four illegal aliens from al Qaeda-friendly Pakistan, who furtively bailed from their vessel and eluded four armed security guards, pose no danger to the American public. "We did some extensive background checking and there is nothing that indicates that they are involved in any type of subversive activity at all," Border Patrol official Michael Gonzales said. Never mind their brazen subversion of our laws and our national security. "These appear to be bona fide crewmen who decided to jump ship," Gonzales insisted. He described the incident as "another garden-variety crewmen desertion." Oh, yeah. No need to worry, folks. This is just another "garden-variety" group of young, Middle Eastern male fugitives from the law who have vanished into thin air. Happens all the time, say the locals around New Orleans. Cynthia Portera, owner of Portera's Bakery in St. Charles Parish, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that she often sees foreign seamen wandering through her neighborhood. "They're just a constant problem," she said. And once they're in, the chances are virtually nil that they'll be caught. Recall that four months ago, four Pakistani, five Mexican and four Turkish crewmembers all escaped from cargo ships after docking in Norfolk, Va. The INS admitted that at this one port alone, crews of 40 foreign cargo vessels were allowed ashore without proper authorization since December 2001. Despite "heightened" security, the Pakistanis were able to abandon ship and catch taxicabs and buses to cities across the country. The Mexicans and Turks slipped off separately soon after. As of last month, only two of the Pakistanis out of this bunch of ship-jumpers had been caught. Also recall that in May 2002, the U.S. Coast Guard alerted federal, state and local law enforcement officials that it had received intelligence information that "25 Islamic extremists" linked to the al Qaeda network had entered America on prominent commercial cargo vessels through the ports of Miami, Savannah, Ga., and Long Beach, Calif. According to Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, the suspects allegedly dressed as stevedores, wearing orange vests and hard hats to avoid detection. Graham's office told me this week that it has not been made aware of any apprehensions involving the 25 suspects. And now for the really good news: If they can hang out long enough undetected, these fugitives may be eligible for the kind of illegal alien amnesty favored by Sen. Tom Daschle and President Bush, erstwhile champions of homeland security. As I've noted before, the so-called Section 245(i) program specifically allows foreign crewmen who jump ship -- among many other kinds of illegal aliens -- to find an employer or spouse and pay a $1,000 fee in order to secure legal permanent residence without having to return to their native countries for background checks. As long as we tolerate and reward massive, "garden-variety" illegal immigration, all the reshuffling of boxes on a Byzantine government organization chart in the name of national security is a wash.