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Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2002 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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The bloody consequences of a broken INS: Ten minutes with Michelle Malkin


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It's not your fault you don't know that last December the Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Seattle picked up - and then released - John Lee Malvo, the illegal alien from Jamaica who is one of the alleged D.C. snipers.

The mainstream media has largely ignored that horror story, which was broken last week by JWR's Michelle Malkin, author of the new, Sept. 11-inspired book, "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists Criminals & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores".

According to Malkin's sources, the INS not only violated its own procedures and ignored recommendations from the U.S. Border Patrol, it broke federal law when it chose to set free Malvo and his mother.

Malkin, the daughter of Filipino immigrants, describes herself as a "libertarian-leaning conservative." But when it comes to immigration policy, she is not in the open-borders camp. I called her Wednesday at her offices in Washington, D.C.:

Q: You say John Lee Malvo is not an exception, but the latest example of the INS allowing bad guys to stick around and cause big-time trouble.

A: Right. This is a classic example of "catch and release," the standard operating procedure by which the INS cycles known illegal aliens through its system and (laughs) sets them free!

In fact, my latest column is about exactly this. For cost-savings reasons, for humanitarian reasons, the INS is letting people go that end up going on to terrorize and kill Americans and the INS is never held responsible for that.

Q: National Review magazine recently did an article on the visa applications of a number of the Sept. 11 terrorists. The address one guy said he was going to be living at was "htl" (hotel) and the applications were filled with all kinds of sloppy stuff. Was that only because they were Saudis and had a special deal with the State Department, or was it indicative of a larger problem?

A: Well, my friend (and fellow JWR columnist) Joel Mowbray, who has been really responsible for holding the State Department's feet to the fire, talks about the "courtesy culture" at the State Department, where we treat foreigners who are applying to come into this country as clients, instead of putting our own interest first and guarding American interests and national sovereignty.

The same is absolutely true of the INS as well. They see themselves as a customer service bureau, not first and foremost as a law-enforcement agency.

Q: Your whole book "Invasion" is an attempt to document a service run amok?

A: I'm sure I used that phrase somewhere in my book, if not multiple times.

Q: It's not just sloppy, bureaucratic stuff you'd expect from a big, dumb government agency?

A: Look, let's put it this way. The problems at INS start at the top. For so many years, whether it's a Republican or Democrat administration, you have a chief law enforcement officer who often doesn't believe in enforcing the laws he's charged with enforcing.

That certainly was the case with James Zeigler, Bush's appointee who was also quite beloved by both Teddy Kennedy and Trent Lott. Right away, alarm bells should have gone off, but, of course, James Ziegler really represents the whole pre-Sept. 11 mentality of immigration law enforcement:

That this agency should rubber stamp applications, push through naturalization applications and process as many foreign students and businessmen as possible, despite the fact that we have no way of tracking people when they overstay those visas and so little resources to actually detain them and kick them out if they don't belong here.

Q: Like any government agency, it's beholden to political interests. Who are the ones who have turned the INS into a kind of open screen door?

A: As many people say, it's not always fair to keep beating up on this agency when it is really a reflection and embodiment of all the open-borders forces.

Q: It's like the IRS. (It) didn't come up with all the tax laws, Congress did.

A: Yeah, that's partly it. And of course you've got a travel and tourism industry, which I talk about a lot in the book, which is always breathing down the necks of INS managers at ports of entry to ram as many people through.

And there are the universities, which have long sabotaged a student visa tracking system. That's not the fault of the INS. That's the fault of the university lobby - I call them "the university pimps," because I believe what they are doing is selling out our national security for profits from tuition.

Q: They like foreign students because they don't discount their tuitions.

A: Right, and also they are a big source of cheap labor in the classroom. That tracking system has been planned for decades, but because of the education lobby - and because of both leading Republicans and Democrats after 1996, when the law was put into place - it's never been erected.

After Sept. 11 they set a deadline - a new deadline. They said, by January 2003, "Oh. We've got to have that in place." The Justice Department just reported a couple weeks ago that they are still not going to meet that deadline.

In part, it's because of universities complaining about the administrative burden it would be and complaints from foreign students' organizations that claim it is some sort of invasion of their privacy to tell us simple things like where they are studying, what they are studying and when they are going to leave.

Q: It's not like you're not asking U.S. citizens to provide this information.

A: No. And that really hits on the main theme of the book. My parents always taught me that entry into this country, residence in the country and citizenship in the country was an absolute privilege and a blessing, not some sort of right or entitlement.

That should really be the message we should be sending to people who are applying to come in here, and yet we send the absolute opposite message.

There are so many illegal alien lobbying groups deeply entrenched in the political mainstream now who believe it is some sort of right or entitlement to come here, get free health care, get free kidney dialysis treatment, free education, driver's licenses and eventually amnesty.

But you know, you can hardly fault them for having this attitude when Congress continues to encourage it.

Q: What needs to happen to shape up the INS?

A: The first thing that President Bush needed to do is appoint someone to replace James Ziegler who actually has law-enforcement experience and who firmly rejects the open-borders philosophy.

Ziegler is going to be stepping down at the end of the year and I think that this is a huge opportunity for President Bush to show that he is as serious about waging the war on terror overseas as he is about waging that war at home.

Q: What is your general position on immigration policy? There are the open-doors people and the Buchanan closed-doors people - or almost closed doors people. Where are you on that spectrum?

A: I would say that I am in the "guarded doors and working senses" camp. I think that when you look at the front door and our visa-issuance process, that we have to strongly guard against terrorists and other foreign menaces coming into our shores. That doesn't mean bolting the door down completely; it means state department counselors doing their jobs when they are interviewing people.

Q: And the back door - the illegal door?

A: When it comes to the back door, yes, I am for completely shutting the back door. I think that means turning off all the magnets that are attracting people who are coming here and encouraging them to jump ahead of the line. We talked about amnesty programs and driver's licenses, but it also means getting serious about enforcing employer sanctions. Those laws have been on the books since 1986.

Q: Do you have any hope that things will be fixed at the INS any time soon?

A: In the long run, I'm hopeful that more people in Washington will grasp the idea that getting a handle on illegal immigration and winning a war on terror are inextricably linked. Right now, many people refuse to see that connection.

I think that connection was stunningly underscored with this latest sniper spree: The story of how Lee Malvo was allowed to flee by an INS that is supposed to enforce laws against people who come here illegally. We saw the bloody consequences of that.

My book talks about so many examples of American men and women who've died because of lax immigration enforcement. I think the word is getting out there. The victims are beginning to understand this more, and at some point Congress and the White House are not going to be able to close their eyes any more.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald