- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

The terrorists "involved in attacking the United States crossed our borders. Our control of entrance into this country is nonexistent, and that makes us incredibly vulnerable," Rep. Tom Tancredo said yesterday.

The Colorado Republican said that it is time for the nation to tighten border security. In making that demand, he joined those on both sides of the immigration issue who in the aftermath of the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks are calling for increased vigilance at the nation's border crossings.

Mr. Tancredo, chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, has been a lone voice campaigning for greatly restricted immigration. He has introduced legislation requiring an immigration moratorium.

In an interview yesterday, he said that the tragedy the nation is experiencing "will make people begin to understand that as a precautionary measure and without infringing on the rights of any American citizen we have the right and duty to control who comes into our nation, who stays and how long. Border control is tied to national security."

On that point, there is little dispute.

Daniel T. Griswold, associate director of the Cato Institute and a pro-immigration advocate, said, "I don't know anybody who wants to continue open borders and wants to let terrorists be imported into the country. We need to have efficient, competent information-sharing systems in place at the border to prevent known terrorists from entering."

Critics of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's border policies, say almost anybody can enter the United States at will. The agency's border patrol is severely understaffed and, despite the expenditure of millions of dollars, it is still laboring with inadequate computer and radio equipment, INS officials say.

In a joint statement prepared as an editorial comment, Executive Director Mark Krikorian and Director of Research Steven Camarota at the nonpartisan Center for Immigration Studies said:

"The Border Patrol, despite recent increases, remains almost laughably inadequate at any given time, there are only about 1,700 agents patrolling the southern border, an average of less than one agent per mile, and the northern border is even less defended. The Border Patrol could be increased to 20,000 or 30,000 people without even nearing the point of diminishing returns."

Indeed, Congress last year dropped plans for creating a system that would track the comings and goings of the 29 million foreigners who enter the United States each year on temporary visas. It did so even though approximately 11 million such "visitors" never go home.

In the course of debate over the visitor-monitoring plan, various members of Congress argued that the electronic-tracking system was necessary to at least hinder the incursions of criminals, spies and terrorists like those who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 and mass murderers such as Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, the "Railway Killer," who was captured in 1999.

Resendez-Ramirez had been deported three times. Yet he kept returning to the United States and committed a series of murders, rapes and burglaries before being jailed and executed.

Lawmakers opposed to the tracking system said that it would undermine international trade and the need for greater economic cooperation. Their arguments won the day.

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