Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2002 / 7 Tishrei, 5763

Michelle Malkin

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End sanctuary for illegal immigrants | What does fighting terrorism have to do with stemming massive illegal immigration? Much more than government officials have been willing to let on over the past year.

When September 11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar needed help getting fraudulent government-issued photo IDs before embarking on their suicide mission, they hopped into a van and headed to the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store in Falls Church, Va. That's where scores of migrant day laborers -- the kind whom immigration advocates refer to as "undocumented" -- gather to find work and ply bogus identity papers.

Nearly one year after the terrorist attacks, I drove to the 7-Eleven that Hanjour and Almihdhar visited. It's a stone's throw from the Pentagon, where Hanjour and Almihdhar deliberately crash-landed American Airlines Flight 77. The parking lot was, as usual, filled with Hispanic day laborers. Local cops suspect that most of these men are here illegally and that they continue to facilitate trade in fake identification documents. But nobody arrests them.

This is an all-too-familiar scene from the border states to the heartland. Public officials talk tough about the need for improved cooperation among local, state and federal authorities to fight terrorism. Yet, several major cities, including the home of Ground Zero, continue to serve as safe havens for illegal aliens -- and as magnets for immigration outlaws with more nefarious aspirations.

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Falls Church, Va., is an informal sanctuary, where the local government maintains a hands-off attitude toward illegal aliens unless they commit other crimes besides immigration violations. Several major cities have actually incorporated this policy formally.

Los Angeles led the way by declaring itself an official sanctuary for illegal aliens in 1979, when the city police commission issued an order at the city council's behest barring cooperation between local cops and the INS. Special Order 40 also forbids police from questioning anyone about immigration status until after criminal charges have been made. Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and New York City all adopted similar policies -- and cling to them today.

Barely two months after the September 11 attacks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated his commitment to preserve the Big Apple as a formal sanctuary for illegal aliens. "People who are undocumented do not have to worry about city government going to the federal government," Bloomberg vowed.

This assurance was stunning coming from the new mayor of a city still covered in rubble as a result of foreign terrorists who exploited our lax immigration policies at every turn. But Bloomberg was simply following in the bipartisan footsteps of his predecessors. New York City's sanctuary policy was created in 1989 by Mayor Ed Koch and upheld by every mayor succeeding him.

When Congress enacted immigration reform laws that forbade local governments from barring employees from cooperating with the INS, Mayor Rudy Giuliani filed suit against the feds in 1997. He was rebuffed by two lower courts, which ruled that the sanctuary order amounted to special treatment for illegal aliens and were nothing more than an unlawful effort to flaunt federal enforcement efforts against illegal aliens. In January 2000, the Supreme Court rejected his appeal, but Giuliani vowed to ignore the law.

The Twin Towers are gone and Giuliani is out of office, but the city's policy of safe harbors for illegal immigrants stands.

The overwhelming majority of illegal aliens, of course, have no connection to terrorism. But our continued high tolerance for massive illegal immigration gives terrorists deadly cover. More than half of the 48 Islamic radicals convicted or tied to recent terrorist attacks on the U.S. over the past decade either were themselves illegal aliens or relied on illegal aliens to obtain false identification documents.

Illegal aliens participated in the first attack on the World Trade Center, the Los Angeles Millennium bombing plot and the New York subway bombing plot. Three of the September 11 hijackers were here illegally at the time of their attacks.

Shoring up our consular offices abroad, tightening visa issuance policies for tourists and legal permanent residents, and improving border security are only part of the battle against terrorism. Homeland defense also requires vigorous interior enforcement of immigration laws against all those who slip through the cracks.

Repealing sanctuary laws in our major metropolitan centers is a small but long overdue first step.

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JWR contributor Michelle Malkin is the author of, most recently, "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists Criminals & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores". To comment, please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate