- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2002

An analysis of census figures shows that at least 58,000 Middle Eastern men from countries other than Israel are residing illegally in the United States, a figure that analysts say highlights the nation's vulnerability to terrorist infiltrators.
The new number is much greater than previously thought, and is contained in a recent Census Bureau report that lists for the first time the native countries of 8,705,421 illegals who resided here in 2000.
"It is difficult to overstate the implications of this new report for the security of our nation," said Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies.
"While the vast majority of illegals from the Middle East are not terrorists, the fact that tens of thousands of people from that region and millions more from the rest of the world can settle in the United States illegally means that terrorists who wish to do so face few obstacles," he said. "We can't protect ourselves from terrorism without dealing with illegal immigration."
Ivan Eland, director of defense policy studies for the Cato Institute, agreed that the findings are a wake-up call to law enforcement.
"I am pro-immigration. But these numbers do show that weeding out terrorists is more complicated than we may have thought," he said. "We need to do a better job tracking visitors to see they don't overstay visas. If we did improve enforcement, we probably could expand legal immigration."
The Census Bureau report was generated as part of a highly technical series of post-Census 2000 studies, and is preliminary.
It "underwent a more limited review than official Census Bureau publications [and] is released to inform interested parties of research and to encourage discussion," the document states.
The bureau found that 5,312,990 undocumented residents hailed from North and Central America, with 3,871,912 coming from Mexico, the source of the greatest number of illegal foreigners.
There were 336,717 Salvadorans and 238,977 Guatemalans here illegally, forming the second- and third-biggest national groups of undocumented residents from the Americas.
The second-highest number of illegals came from Asia principally South and East Asia, which accounted for 1,248,601 of the continent's overall figure of 1,363,419 illegal aliens.
Israel is the native land of 24,372 undocumented residents.
Like Mexico, China is known to have active and sophisticated human-smuggling rings, and it was the source of 200,306 illegals. But because of the September 11 attacks, the number of undocumented aliens who have arrived from Middle East countries has become a focal point.
Proponents of stricter immigration law enforcement and visa application scrutiny can point out that three of the September 11 hijackers were illegals from the Middle East. So too was Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, who tried to disable the subway in New York, and Mohammed Salameh, who participated in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and an advocate of tighter immigration laws, said the findings are not surprising.
"By not enforcing time limits on visas, decreasing H1-B [temporary employment or training] visas, as well as allowing illegals to obtain drivers' licenses with little difficulty and, more importantly, by not deporting the 300,000 people who have been ordered deported it is no surprise that millions of illegal immigrants will settle in the United States, including tens of thousands from the states that sponsor terrorism.
"To reduce the likelihood of future attacks, Congress has a responsibility to take concrete action to ensure immigration laws are enforced," he said. "The defense of the nation begins with the defense of its borders."

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