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Guest Contributor
Xiaochin Yan

Xiaochin Claire Yan is a Policy Fellow in Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.[Yan index]

Still Not Safe in California

Protecting the borders?...

[Xiaochin Yan] 12/13/04

The post-9/11 intelligence reorganization bill is expected to pass Congress but Californians should not feel any safer. Adding a national intelligence director alone will not make the country safe. By not including provisions to plug our porous borders, this bill violates the spirit of the 9/11 report.

That report gripped the nation with a clear narrative of how the 19 hijackers entered the United States, moved around, opened bank accounts, and obtained driver's licenses before boarding airplanes with weapons. The commission said that the “abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity.” But rather than becoming more secure since 9/11, the border has grown even more porous.

Time magazine estimates that three million illegals will enter the U.S. this year — that’s about 60 flights every day for a year. This mass movement of illegal immigrants provides a perfect cover for terrorists, particularly with tighter security at airports. Between October of last year and this past August, Border Patrol estimates that it caught 55,890 people described as other than Mexicans.

Time also estimates that as many as 190,000 illegals from countries other than Mexico have flooded into the U.S. population this year. Only a fraction of them are ever captured. Local law enforcement officers, ranchers, and others living in border states told Time that these intruders arrive not only from Latin America, but also from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, and Iraq.

The House version of the post-9/11 bill included plans to hire more border and immigration agents. It would have also expedited the deportations of citizens of other nations repeatedly caught crossing illegally into the United States. (The 9/11 Commission believes that 15 of the 19 hijackers were potentially vulnerable to interception by border authorities.) The Senate rejected most of these changes.

Nineteen of the 9/11 hijackers had more than 60 driver’s licenses. Yet this issue will not be addressed in the new bill aimed to make Americans safer at home. Those first to feel not only the economic burdens but also the security threats are likely to be states in the border regions.

Of the 15 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., it is estimated that more than two million are in California. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that California’s illegal immigrant population is costing taxpayers more than $10.5 billion per year for education, medical care, and incarceration. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have legalized licenses for illegal immigrations because such legislation would make it easier for terrorists to get licenses.

The 9/11 commissioners recognized that the challenge to keep the nation secure in the age of terrorism is to prevent those few who may pose overwhelming risks from entering the United States. The primary responsibility for combating illegal immigration and securing our borders lies with the federal government.

A handful of Californian lawmakers, including Congressmen David Drier, Gary Miller, and Elton Gallegly, along with James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, have denounced the Senate version of the bill that deleted key border reforms. Though the Senate version looks to prevail in Congress, these few clear-headed lawmakers should not give up the fight for immigration reform.CRO




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