In 2007, in a crowded suburb of Damascus, Iraq war refugee Joseph Zaiad told me why attempting to leave Syria and sneak into Mexico for an illegal border crossing into the U.S. wasn’t an option. Zaiad had contemplated doing so at one point, because, like thousands of other Iraqi war refugees, he found himself unable to return home or find a way to legally enter a third friendly country that might offer a better future. “We all know the border between Mexico and the U.S. is closed,” he said. “Before the crackdown, you used to be able to go. But now? It is impossible.”
Not exactly. But President Barack Obama might want to consider the deterrent effect of border security measures his predecessor and Congress put in place on the Mexican frontier following 9/11. As he prepares to turn his attention to immigration reform, the new president is under mounting pressure from elements of his party to tear down the wall, slow the mass deportations, stop illegal-entry prosecutions and workplace raids, and never let the National Guard leave its barracks again.
Lost in the distracting debates about Mexican illegals is the fact that thousands of immigrants from the Muslim world and state sponsors of terrorism can, do, and always have found it easy to steal across the Mexican border. In intelligence parlance, these immigrants have come to be known as “special interest aliens” because they come from Muslim countries that are flagged for hosting known terrorist organizations. The Obama administration and immigrant advocacy groups pressuring for a rollback of the Bush-era crackdown policy need only read current Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “threat assessments” to be reminded that border security was never squarely about Mexicans and Central Americans. It was always about “special interest aliens.”
The 2008-2013 threat assessment put out by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis of the Department of Homeland Security enunciates what it still considers to be the central threat for the next half decade: “At the highest level of concern, terrorists will attempt to defeat border security measures with the goal of inserting operatives and establishing support networks in the United States.” It goes on to state: “These illicit actors also could pose as refugees or asylum seekers to gain access to the United States. State failure and internal conflicts abroad will continue to generate sizable refugee flows to the United States — notably from countries of special interest for terrorism in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia — which could provide opportunities for illicit entry.”
Obama will no doubt soon learn from access to classified intelligence — off limits to immigrant advocates — that this is hardly unsubstantiated fear-mongering.
As I documented at length in the 2007 four-part series “Breaching America,” illegals from up to 43 “countries of interest” are getting caught crossing the Mexican border all the time. They come from nations where U.S. military personnel are battling radical Islamist movements, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and the Philippines. They come from countries where organized Islamic extremists have bombed U.S. interests such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Lebanon. They come from U.S.-designated state sponsors of terror such as Iran, Syria and Sudan. And they come from Saudi Arabia, the nation that spawned most of the 9/11 hijackers.