I was shocked to learn this week that of the six men who were recently arrested for planning a terrorist attack on Fort Dix, not a single one came from Mexico.
What is going on here? I have been listening for months to presidential candidates from both parties talk about the need for "border security," including bigger and better fences along our border with Mexico, in order to prevent another terrorist attack on this country.
So what happens? We catch a bunch of alleged terrorists this week, and four of them were born in the former Yugoslavia, one was born in Jordan, and one came from Turkey. Three were in the United States illegally, two had green cards making them permanent residents of this country, and the sixth was a U.S. citizen.
There is no indication that any of them snuck over the border from Mexico or that a fence, barbed wire, guard dogs or vigilantes on that border would have kept them from gaining entry to this country.
And, if I recall correctly, the 19 terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks did not come from Mexico, either. Fifteen of them came from Saudi Arabia, two were from the United Arab Emirates, one was from Egypt, and one was from Lebanon. (Anybody want to build a fence around those countries? I am sure Halliburton would like to bid on the job.)
But one suspects there is more to the demand for beefed up "border security" than just a desire to protect the homeland. One suspects that some candidates might be talking in code.
Like when Mitt Romney told the crowd at a Republican straw poll in Memphis last year, "Can our borders be closed to the best and brightest, but be totally open to those without skills and education?"
Was Romney talking about the Saudis who came to this country to blow up the World Trade Center? Or the Mexicans who come to this country to work?
John McCain, who co-sponsored immigration reform legislation with Edward Kennedy in 2005, is choosing his words carefully these days.
"We must secure our borders; they are broken," he said in Davenport, Iowa, in February. "We've seen the devastating effects of illegal immigration (in Arizona). We can't have people living in the country illegally. We're going to have to have a humane approach to this problem, but we certainly can't have people living in our country illegally, because it makes it more difficult for people to come to our country legally, the way that most of our parents and forebears came to this country."
The Democrats, too, are walking on eggshells. During the Democratic debate in Orangeburg, S.C., two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton was asked if she favored a "form of amnesty for illegal aliens."
Clinton replied: "Well, I'm in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, which includes tightening our border security, sanctioning employers who employ undocumented immigrants, helping our communities deal with the costs that come from illegal immigration, getting the 12 million or so immigrants out of the shadows. That's very important to me. After 9-11, we've got know who's in this country."
Congress is schedule to begin debating immigration reform once again next week, and a group of prominent Democratic senators led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a statement about it on Wednesday.
In the seven-paragraph statement, the word "tough" appears five times and the word "security" appears three times.
The words "citizenship," "guest worker," "legal status" and "permanent resident" never appear at all.
And you get the feeling that immigration reform is something both parties wish would just go away.
Building bigger fences is so much easier — and more popular — right now.
To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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