Assessing the threat at our southern border

In my several posts on the subject of immigration I’ve mentioned that I’m primarily concerned about security at our southern border and relatively unconcerned about issues of immigration and assimilation. This post is my response to a commenter on my recent post, “For the duration”, who questioned the need for concern about security at our southern border. Rather than respond with a few hipshot citations I preferred to make a more complete case.

I won’t insult the intelligence of my commenter by trying to make a case that the 9/11 hijackers entered this country via our southern border (although early on some made claims along those lines). To the best of our knowledge most if not all of the 9/11 hijackers entered the country by exploiting legal means. Here’s the statement on the subject from Staff Statement 1 of the staff of the 9/11 Commission:

As we know from the sizable illegal traffic across our land borders, a terrorist could attempt to bypass legal procedures and enter the United States surreptitiously. None of the 9/11 attackers entered or tried to enter our country this way. So today we will focus on the hijackers’ exploitation of legal entry systems.

That the 9/11 hijackers exploited legal means to enter the country in no way suggests, as the 9/11 Commission staff notes, that there is no threat from prospective terrorists entering the country by illegal means. It just means that we have to walk and chew gum at the same time: we need to pay more serious attention to securing all entry points to the country than we have historically.

A threat does exist at our southern border; ignoring it would be imprudent. The remainder of this post will be devoted to documenting the problem of human smugglers with ties to Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.

A good place to start in examining the threat posed by people who have ties to radical Islamist terrorist organizations smuggling other people across our southern border who may themselves have ties to radical Islamist terrorist organizations is the staff report from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, “9/11 and Terrorist Travel”. The report provides an excellent introduction to the security issues at all of the ports of entry to the United States and has a thorough review of the means those involved in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 and the 9/11 hijackers used to enter our country. The report is lengthy; I won’t attempt to recap it here.

The report documents the use of human smugglers by terrorists extensively. It also notes a most troubling case, that of Salim Boughader Mucharrafille. The report says this of of Boughader (p. 67):

Boughader was charged with human smuggling and sentenced to 11 months in prison. After serving his
sentence he was deported to Mexico where he was arrested along with several other members of his
smuggling ring. They face criminal charges and if convicted could serve lengthy jail times.

and (p. 61):

To date, only one human smuggler with suspected links to terrorists has been convicted
in the United States.

An Associated Press article by Pauline Arrillaga and Olga R. Rodriguez goes into considerably more detail on the Boughader case:

Until his arrest in December 2002, Boughader smuggled about 200 Lebanese compatriots into the United States, including sympathizers of Hezbollah, designated a terrorist organization by U.S. authorities. One client, Boughader said, worked for a Hezbollah-owned television network, which glorifies suicide bombers and is itself on an American terror watch list.

Boughader was not an isolated instance (ibid):

But he is not unique, according to an Associated Press investigation based on government and court records and scores of interviews.

and (ibid):

But after Boughader was locked up, other smugglers operating in Lebanon, Mexico and the United States continued to help Hezbollah-affiliated migrants in their effort to illicitly enter from Tijuana, a U.S. immigration investigator said in Mexican court documents obtained by the AP.

Another smuggling network that is controlled by Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebel group – a U.S.-designated terror organization – tried sneaking four Tigers over the California-Mexico border en route to Canada not long after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigator Steven Schultz said. The four were caught along with 17 other Sri Lankans, all posing as Mexicans, attempting to enter ports at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.

An AP investigation found these are just some of the many pipelines in Central and South America, Mexico and Canada that have illegally channeled thousands of people into the United States from so-called “special-interest” countries – those identified by the U.S. government as sponsors or supporters of terrorism.

and (ibid):

Lebanese carpenter Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, smuggled in over the California border, admitted spending part of his time in the United States raising money to send back to his country to support Hezbollah – at least $40,000, according to an FBI affidavit. Kourani, court records said, told the FBI that his brother is the group’s chief of military security in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is widely admired as a resistance force.

Consider also the statement of David Aguilar, Chief of the Office Border Patrol, before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security:

The U.S. continues to experience a rising influx of other than Mexican nationals (OTMs) illegally entering the country. Apprehensions are running at a rate of 175% for FY05 over FY 04’s record number of OTM apprehensions on the southwest border, and 131% over the record national FY 04 OTM apprehension figure of 75,371. The exponential growth in the apprehension of OTM illegal entrant aliens and, in most cases, their subsequent release is a major impediment to the removal process. Currently, Border Patrol places most of these apprehensions in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge. To help streamline the removal process, DHS expanded the use of Expedited Removal proceedings (ER) for OTMs, initially in the Tucson and Laredo sectors. ER proceedings, when contrasted with traditional removal proceedings, shorten the duration of time spent in detention facilities and the practical elimination of time spent getting ready for and appearing before immigration courts and judges.

The ICE is apparently reluctant to release statistics on the national origins of OTM’s.

I’m going to continue to document the actual security threat at our southern border using the best sources I can identify but I think I’ve achieved my goal: a single source would be enough to disprove the claim that there’s no security threat whatever from our southern border and I’ve provided several.

Five years ago I believed that our first priority in improving the security of the American people—significantly more important than military action which I generally opposed—should be in devoting more attention to securing the ports of entry to the country against entry by those who would do us harm whether they were attempting to enter the country by legal or illegal means. I continue to believe that. I think that our time would better be used in debating ways and means for doing that than in a shouting match between those who will accept no alternative other than building an impenetrable wall between the United States and Mexico and expelling all illegal migrants and those who will accept no alternative other than open borders.

4 comments… add one
  • Charlie B Link

    This is an interesting topic about Mexico.

    Depending on the colour of your skin, in Mexico you are entitled to the highest standard of living. Even the Swiss and the Finns do not come close to the so-called rich Mexicans. But, the poor ones are worse than the folks in Africa, Asia and rest of Latin America. Indigenious population is extremely marginalised, ala black population in old South Africa? I do not know.

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