After 30-something years of mass immigration, legal and illegal, the immigration issue finally tiptoed into the national political discussion in the third and final presidential debate this month, with moderator Bob Schieffer acknowledging that he had received more e-mail about that issue than any other.
Neither candidate, of course, had anything serious, intelligent or even true to say about the subject, but at least it was mentioned. Of course by now it may be too late to talk about it at all.
It may too late to talk about it because the immediate danger immigration presents to our national safety may already have materialized.
If pregnant Mexican women can sneak over the border, there's every reason to think that terrorists can. But if they do, we may not know about it until they let us know themselves.
Speaking in Nogales, Arizona, last month, Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge proudly informed the state where 40 percent of illegal aliens enter the country that he had seen no sign of terrorist efforts to cross the border.
Mr. Ridge was in Nogales to "announce two high-tech lanes for cutting waiting times for commercial trucks at the port of entry," according to local television reports. Not to worry about terrorism, you see, when high-tech trade with Mexico is on the platter.[U.S. won't militarize its borders, Ridge says AP, September 28, 2004]
That was just before the Washington Times reported, on Sept. 28, that law enforcement authorities say that "A top al Qaeda lieutenant has met with leaders of a violent Salvadoran criminal gang with roots in Mexico and the United States—including a stronghold in the Washington [DC] area—in an effort by the terrorist network to seek help infiltrating the U.S.-Mexico border." [Al Qaeda seeks tie to local gangs, By Jerry Seper]
The distinguished visitor from the terrorist group that brought us the World Trade Center attacks is a gentleman named Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, who was observed in Canada last year and is said to have been seeking to obtain materials with which he could construct a "dirty bomb," a conventional explosive with radioactive materials.
The gentleman is also, the Times reported again on Oct. 5, "believed by authorities to have met with alien smugglers in Mexico and Honduras, seeking help in bringing al Qaeda members illegally into the United States." This is what Mr. Ridge said he has "seen no sign" of.
The smugglers in question are members of the Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, a band of thugs and killers active in this country as well as Central America, thanks to the accomplishments of the Open Borders lobby over the years. Mr. Ridge really ought to read the newspapers some time.
Apparently, Mr. Ridge did, because a couple of weeks later, speaking in Canada, Mr. Ridge told an audience that "There isn't a day that goes by, literally, where a couple of people aren't turned away from our borders because they are associated in some manner, shape or form with terrorists or terror-related organizations." That, of course, is a blatant contradiction of what he said in Nogales earlier.
But maybe "turning people away from our borders" refers merely to aliens trying to cross legally. The more serious concern in national security is those who try to cross illegally—like the esteemed El Shukrijumah.
But then, not to worry about him, because the new chief of the federal police force in Mexico says there's no danger from terrorists anyway.
"Up until now, we have not detected one terrorist in this country," Adm. Jose Luis Figueroa told a news conference in Mexico City a week after his appointment. Later he added, "I don't think the border is a place, a target, for fundamentalist Islam movements."
As is the case with Mr. Ridge, of course, it really doesn't matter what the new chief thinks about any of it, and we may all be better off not knowing what he thinks.
What matters is whether Al Qaeda or other terrorists really are entering the country and what either the Mexican or the U.S. government are doing to stop that.
As used to be said of spies, it's not the ones you catch you need to worry about; it's the ones you don't that cause problems.
The fact that Mr. Schieffer—not either of the two candidates—finally decided to bring up the subject of illegal immigration in a presidential debate should not disguise the larger truth that this was the first time in this election—and indeed apparently the first time in any election in the last 30 years—that the immigration issue has been mentioned at all.
As what Mr. Ridge and Admiral Figueroa said suggests, there's no reason to believe it will be mentioned again—until, perhaps, we hear more from Mr. El Shukrijumah and his friends in Mexico and Central America.
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Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control. Click here for Sam Francis' website. Click here to order his monograph, Ethnopolitics: Immigration, Race, and the American Political Future.