U.S. officialdom calls them “Special Interest Aliens,” as much because they might have a special interest in us as we in them.  They are aliens from countries that are considered potential sources of terrorist attacks on the American homeland, and their numbers are reportedly growing.  “People are coming here with bad intentions,” an anonymous Border Patrol agent stated in an interview with NBC 4 TV in Los Angeles last November.  “We know for a fact that people coming from the Middle East are now coming into Mexico and spending a year, even two years in Mexico to learn how to speak Spanish.”  These “Special Interest Aliens” (SIA’s) intended to pass themselves off as Mexicans, presumably to increase their chances of following the paths of millions of illegal Mexican immigrants who have entered the United States.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) told NBC 4 that he and other members of Congress had sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security demanding answers to important questions, including “How many people have been stopped at our southern border who would be hostile and [are] coming from hostile countries?”  According to Rohrabacher, “It could be in the hundreds, it could be in the thousands.”  Douglas, Arizona, resident Larry Vance showed NBC 4 a Middle Eastern prayer rug left behind by one of a host of illegal aliens who have used his property as a transit point to heartland America and said: “I think it would be incredibly naive, to the point of stupidity, to not [sic] believe there are terrorists coming through here.”

A Tucson, Arizona, NBC affiliate subsequently carried a similar report: A former Border Patrol supervisor claimed that aliens from states that are considered potential sources of terrorism are crossing the border at will; a diary written in Arabic was left behind by one illegal alien; and a Border Patrol agent told reporters of an incident involving an alien from Pakistan, apprehended along the Arizona-Mexico border, who was identified as an associate of an Islamic terrorist group, and another incident involving seven Middle Eastern men who were caught by the Border Patrol.  The Border Patrol veteran told reporters, “We were told specifically that these people had terrorist pasts and they were coming here specifically to carry out a terrorist attack.”

The Los Angeles and Tucson television investigations followed on the heels of numerous reports about terrorists possibly entering the United States over the summer of 2004.  In July, Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed was detained at a McAllen, Texas, airport, on her way to New York.  She carried a South African passport and travel itineraries showing a July 8 flight from Johannesburg to London.  From there, she flew to Mexico City before illegally crossing the Rio Grande near McAllen.  Ahmed was on a terrorism-watch list and has allegedly entered the United States as many as 250 times.

Border Patrol agents reportedly ran across dozens of Middle Eastern men trying to enter the United States illegally last summer.  In June, 77 Middle Eastern men were reported to have been apprehended in Arizona alone.  In September, U.S. agents were investigating a story about a suspected Al Qaeda cell leader, Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, trying to enter the United States along alien-smuggling routes on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Such stories did not let up last fall: In November, Time reported that a “key al-Qaeda operative” captured in Pakistan told an alarming story of the network’s plans to target the United States with “weapons of mass destruction.”  Sharif al-Masri told interrogators that Al Qaeda was interested in smuggling “nuclear materials to Mexico, then operatives would carry the material into the US.”  At about the time of Masri’s capture, Homeland Security officials were meeting with Mexican counterparts to discuss U.S. concerns about the terrorist threat along the Mexican border—including the possibility that illegal-alien-smuggling rings could aid terrorists in crossing into the United States.  The American side was apparently worried about the use of aircraft in delivering biological or chemical attacks on U.S. soil; the Mexicans said they would focus on flight schools and aviation facilities on their side of the border.  The reported theft of a crop duster south of San Diego, apparently by three men from Mexico who assaulted a security guard and flew off the plane in a southerly direction, had alarmed the Americans.

The rash of reports of terrorists crossing the border in Arizona and Texas caused some Texas congressmen to demand tightened security along the border.  Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) has, among other things, led the fight against the acceptance of Mexican Matricula Consular cards as a valid for of identification and was prominent among those Texas congressmen demanding tightened border security.  Last fall, Culberson said he had been told by U.S. prosecutors that Al Qaeda terrorists were slipping into the United States disguised as Mexicans, paying off alien-smuggling rings to get them over the border in the flood tide of Mexicans.  The terrorists, according to Culberson, had obtained Matricula cards.  Once in the United States, they became “sleeper agents,” awaiting the signal to carry out pre-planned terrorist acts.

At first glance, comments by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and announced border-security measures gave the appearance that the Bush administration was beginning to take the border problem seriously.  In November, Rumsfeld commented that smuggling routes for moving illegal aliens into the United States could be used “just as easily for terrorists.”  At the same time, Homeland Security officials, partly in response to the demands of the Texas congressmen, announced that illegal aliens who are not Mexicans would be deported without a hearing within days of apprehension.  Before the policy change, some 22,000 non-Mexican illegals had reportedly been released to move freely throughout the United States (pending a hearing that most failed to attend) last year alone.  The policy has a limited range of enforcement, however: The new rules are to be enforced on a trial basis in Tucson, Arizona, and Laredo, Texas.  What’s more, the policy is limited in scope: The rules only apply to non-Mexican illegals found within 100 miles of the border within 14 days of their arrival.  (How does anyone know when they arrived?)

The hearing loophole was recognized in testimony before Congress in 2003 by Steve McCraw, assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Intelligence.  Apart from the large number of no-shows at immigration hearings, some immigrants can use the process itself to their advantage.  McCraw testified that

the ability of foreign nationals to use [the hearings procedure] to create a well-documented but fictitious identity in the United States, provides an opportunity for terrorists to move freely within the US without triggering name-based watch lists.  It also enables them to board planes without revealing their true identity.

Sheriff Dwayne Jernigan of Laredo, Texas, was not impressed by the announcement of the trial policy change regarding non-Mexican illegals.  He told Britain’s Daily Telegraph, “[A]re we serious about terrorism?  Or about homeland security? . . . [E]ntering this country illegally is a crime, and we’re turning our heads and ignoring it.”  There is plenty of reason to agree with Sheriff Jernigan.  The single pitiful measure taken by the misnamed Department of Homeland Security is nowhere close to adequate to deal with the border-security problems now made more urgent by the “War on Terror.”

Millions of aliens attempt to cross the U.S. border illegally each year.  The vast majority are not apprehended by our understaffed, overworked Border Patrol.  Time’s Donald Bartlett and James Steele told the shocking story in an investigation of the illegal immigration problem last year: An estimated three million illegal aliens entered the United States in 2004 alone.  Packs of illegal aliens, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, cross into U.S. territory along thinly guarded—or unguarded—stretches of the southern border.  Cars, trucks, and planes deliver tons of illegal narcotics—and, if smugglers can deliver such contraband, they could also deliver nuclear, biological, or chemical materials to “sleeper” terrorists already in the United States.  “Interior enforcement”—rounding up and deporting illegal aliens within the United States—was virtually halted in the 1990’s, which spurred on the human tidal wave.  Aliens knew that if they could get beyond the border zone, they were home free.

The U.S. Border Patrol was increased from a few thousand agents to more than 9,000 by the late 90’s, with promises of more staffing to come; the staffing increases, however, are obviously too little, too late, to guard borders thousands of miles long.  (By contrast, as of this writing, the United States is set to increase the occupation force in Iraq to as many as 150,000 troops.)

The Border Patrol is ill equipped to do its job.  An anonymous Border Patrol agent told a Tucson reporter last fall that “Over fifty per cent” of the vehicles at his station were out of service, cameras and infrared lenses for night patrol were not functioning, and agents lacked proper training:

At the Academy, we do three hours of training to determine if somebody is carrying fraudulent documents.  And I can tell you from working the checkpoint, there are times people have given me documentation that I have absolutely no clue, as sad as it is to say that, [as to] what I’m looking at.

According to the agent, the Border Patrol is under enormous pressure to rush people through checkpoints and keep the border traffic moving; agents cannot take the necessary time to check out suspicious border-crossers.  There are simply too many of them and far too few Border Patrol agents.

With would-be terrorists reportedly attempting to blend into the flow of Mexicans crossing the border, how many have already slipped past the Border Patrol or have been returned to Mexico (as are Mexican illegals apprehended at the border) where they are free to cross again—as the Mexicans do—without being identified as “Special Interest Aliens”?

With millions of illegal aliens residing in the United States, channels for obtaining fraudulent documents are of great use to terrorist networks.  Estimates of the number of illegal aliens—whose whereabouts and activities are unknown to the U.S. government—range from 7 million to as high as 15 million.  This is easily the highest number of aliens within U.S. territory in history.  The U.S. government does not attempt to ascertain the identities or backgrounds of millions of foreigners to whom it grants visas—many of whom overstay those visas and remain in the United States.  According to the Time story, as many as 190,000 aliens from countries other than Mexico, including Middle Eastern states, had melted into the U.S. population by the fall of 2004.

At the same time, record levels of legal immigration are part of the U.S. security problem.  An immigration policy that has encouraged millions of Third Worlders to migrate to the United States has created—apart from a social, cultural, criminal, and economic disaster in progress—an Islamic network made up of mosques, schools, and social organizations across the United States that allows potential terrorists to go undetected by the authorities.  The Bush White House seems oblivious to current realities: While the administration makes war on Islamic states, it simultaneously throws out the welcome mat for Muslims.  That is to say nothing of Islam’s history of anti-Christian violence or of the long-standing U.S. policy in the Middle East, which has antagonized the Muslim world for decades.  Estimates of how many Muslims reside in the United States vary (from 1.5 to 7 million), but the numbers are striking, no matter which estimate is accurate.

The virtually undefended 4,000-mile border with Canada may be just as much a potential entryway for terrorists as the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.  Canadian security officials have admitted that as many as 50 terrorist groups are operating in their territory.  Since Canada’s immigration and asylum polices are more lax even than our own, can we simply ignore the threat?

Despite all of this evidence suggesting otherwise, Homeland Security Under Secretary Asa Hutchison, reacting to questions about border security, has assured Americans that “the strategy we have is appropriate for the threat.”  Really?  Is this another example of the apparently delusional Bush administration rejecting “reality-based” analysis?

The administration is currently attempting to cut off one important source of real-world information: Border Patrol whistle-blowers, who are being threatened with retribution.  Agent Ron Zermeno, of the Temecula, California, office, told local officials last August that illegal-immigrant roundups had been stopped by officials in Washington, setting off a public outcry, according to the North County Times.  Zermeno says he was subsequently threatened with being fired by Border Patrol management.  It seems the Border Patrol is implementing new, looser rules regarding agents’ performance reviews—rules that Border Patrol agents say can be used to kill dissent within the ranks.

In another move signaling the Bush administration’s real intentions (as opposed to public reassurances) regarding border security and immigration control, the White House successfully lobbied to have many immigration and border-security provisions stripped from the intelligence reform bill passed by Congress and signed by the President last December.

It is evident that the Bush administration does not take homeland security seriously.  What’s more, the White House’s wrong-headed “War on Terror” is a distraction from the real threat to the United States, which is at our very borders and in our hometowns, not in Baghdad or Tehran.  It should be clear to all who have paid attention and have put loyalty to country ahead of loyalty to party that the Bush administration’s misadventure in Iraq is unjustified, has turned into a quagmire for the U.S. Armed Forces, and is likely doing wonders for terrorists’ recruiting efforts.  Patriots who opposed this war did so precisely because we regarded the invasion of a country that had not attacked us and did not represent a threat to the United States as morally indefensible and contrary to American interests.  Many of us were appalled that the administration was chock-full of officials whose primary allegiance was apparently to a foreign power, Israel, and that these officials had helped push America into an unnecessary war to defend someone else’s country.  We were angered that the administration did next to nothing to defend our homeland from attack, as the readily available information on the border-security crisis made plain.

The Bush administration’s “War on Terror” has drained resources that could have been used not only to pursue and to punish those responsible for the September 11 attacks but to defend our country where it really mattered—on our own soil.  To do so requires a comprehensive approach, involving revising our immigration and border-security policies; reevaluating our relations with our neighbors, Mexico and Canada, which would entail demanding that they do their share to help the United States counter the terrorist threat and police our common borders; and reviewing a foreign policy that unquestioningly supports Israel without any regard for the cost, antagonizes the Islamic world, and undermines U.S. standing around the globe.

Finally, as long as Washington is wedded to globalization and multiculturalism (President Bush himself has assured us, despite all contrary evidence, that Islam is “a religion of peace”), America will not be secure.  There is no reason for the United States to make war on the entire Islamic world—but neither is there a reason to allow a substantial portion of that world into the American homeland, gaining a foothold that is a serious threat now and will be a greater one in the future.  Patriots should not be distracted by the administration’s sly-dragons-across-the-sea policies, the same policies that have allowed the Islamic threat into our homeland.  Real homeland security demands an uncompromising love for that homeland, a devotion to her people, and a willingness to act.  If the United States can send 150,000 troops to Iraq, then America can defend her borders.  If Americans are willing to fight and die in distant lands, then surely we must be willing to move decisively to defend our own homes and neighborhoods.