According to a host of news reports, the porous, virtually unprotected southern border of the United States has attracted the attention of Islamic terrorists, as many of us warned it would at the outset of the “War on Terror.”  In March, Time, citing U.S. intelligence officials, reported that Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, a ring leader of attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq, was considering hitting “soft targets” in the United States, including movie theaters, restaurants, and schools.  According to the Time report, Zarqawi has reportedly been in contact with Osama bin Laden, and the Al Qaeda leader has urged him to plan such attacks.  A bulletin circulating in security circles at the time stated that Zarqawi believes that, “if an individual has enough money, he can bribe his way into the US.”  Zarqawi sees the path opened by obtaining a visa to Honduras, then passing through Mexico and crossing the U.S. border.

The Zarqawi reports came at a time when even our seemingly uninterested—in enforcing immigration laws, that is—government was acknowledging that illegal immigration is surging, especially along the southern border, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-11 million illegal aliens on U.S. soil.  (That is one of the lower estimates.)  “The numbers are astounding,” said Cathy Travis, a spokesman for Rep. Solomon Ortiz, a Texas congressman who has pressed for greater funding for border security and immigration control.  “Until we match our budgetary priorities with our national-security priorities, this is going to be the case.”

Last March, FBI director Robert Mueller told Congress that around 700 of those arrested for illegally crossing the southern border in 2004 were from countries the State Department has designated as sources of terrorism.  This is quite apart from those who may have obtained visas, then overstayed them.  The illegals Mueller referred to in his congressional testimony are called “Special Interest Aliens” by U.S. officialdom.

In June, immigration officials told a Senate panel that Border Patrol agents had arrested nearly 100,000 non-Mexicans illegally crossing our southern border in the previous eight months.  These came from Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—but also from Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Iran.  The vast majority were released on their own recognizance, awaiting a deportation hearing.  Few show up under what has been dubbed the “catch and release” program, which makes a mockery of border security, undermines the morale of Border Patrol agents, and leaves this country vulnerable to another catastrophic terrorist attack on the scale of September 11, 2001.

Reports of the steadily growing number of “Special Interest Aliens” among the non-Mexicans apprehended at the southern border jumped dramatically last year.  Increasingly, those who intend to enter the United States illegally first go to Mexico, then cross the border on foot.  “I absolutely believe that the next [terrorist] attack we have will come from somebody who has come across the border illegally,” said Eugene Davis, a retired Border Patrol sector chief.  Davis told the Associated Press in July that “we have no more border security now than we had prior to September 11.  Anybody who believes we’re safer, they’re [sic] living in Neverland.”  In the Texas Rio Grande Valley, over 90 percent of the non-Mexicans apprehended by the Border Patrol are freed because of a lack of holding space in border-detention centers.

Earlier this year, T.J. Bonner, president of the union representing Border Patrol agents, complained about the Bush administration’s lack of seriousness in defending our borders: “There’s been a greater amount of lip service, but there hasn’t been a greater amount of attention to border security,” said Bonner.  “It’s a shell game, and the American public is the loser in this game.”  The union has sharply criticized the administration’s 2006 budget, which would provide for hiring a mere 210 new Border Patrol agents.  The intelligence-reorganization bill President Bush signed just last year called for hiring 10,000 more agents over five years.  According to Bonner, there are fewer than 11,000 agents to patrol more than 6,000 miles of the country’s perimeter around the clock.

By contrast, the United States has stationed around 150,000 troops in Iraq.   And the same administration that has told us countless times that securing our own borders is impossible is taking steps to do just that in Iraq, tightening border security along that country’s borders with Syria and pledging to Saudi Arabia to keep those borders secure to prevent jihadists from passing through to the oil-rich desert kingdom.

In the United States, the Minuteman Project has shown how a presence on the border can sharply curb illegal immigration (by half or more in some areas patrolled by volunteers, according to media accounts).  Last April, U.S. media reported that the Mexican police and army were even directing illegal-alien traffic away from areas in the Tucson border sector patrolled by the Minutemen volunteers, finding other crossing routes for them.  (Will the White House make this provocative action an object of discussion with President Fox at some future meeting on border security?)

If the White House can send 150,000 troops to Iraq, then America can defend her borders.

As the Minuteman volunteers have demonstrated, Americans are ready and willing to move decisively to defend our own homes and neighborhoods.  As of this writing (in July), a New England Minuteman Association has been formed, with plans to replicate the Arizona Minuteman patrols along the Canadian border.  In Houston, a Texas Minuteman project plans to patrol the streets of the city (there are reportedly as many as 400,000 illegal aliens in Houston) as part of a campaign that will extend north from the Mexican border beginning in October.  The Minuteman project is active in California and other states suffering from the tidal wave of illegal immigration.

How has Washington responded to the example of the patriotic volunteers of the Minuteman Project?  According to the Washington Times, last May, Border Patrol agents were ordered not to arrest illegal aliens in the sector patrolled by the Minuteman volunteers “because an increase in apprehensions there would prove the effectiveness of Minuteman volunteers.”  “It was clear to everyone here what was being said and why,” said one anonymous agent.  “The apprehensions were not to increase after the Minuteman volunteers left.  It was as simple as that.”  Another agent said his supervisors “were clear in their intention” to keep arrests to an “absolute minimum” to offset the effect of the Minuteman patrols.  Border Patrol officials have denied this, but Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, said he had “credible sources” within the Border Patrol who had confirmed the anonymous agents’ charges.  According to the Washington Times’ Jerry Seper, “Mr. Tancredo . . . blamed the Bush administration for setting an immigration enforcement tone that suggests to those enforcing the law that he is not serious about secure borders.”

If the President still doesn’t get it, maybe he and Karl Rove should take into account the words of a half-page ad taken out in the Sierra Vista Herald following the Minuteman patrols in Arizona: “Thanks for doing what our government won’t—close the border to illegal aliens.  It was the quietest month we’ve had in many years . . . You made us feel safe because the border was closed.”  If the President and the Republican establishment won’t fight for the security of our borders, ordinary Americans have shown they will, and they would likely respond to leadership that defends their real interests.  What are your plans in 2008, Congressman Tancredo?