- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

While the federal government focuses its attention and resources on combating illegal immigration and drug trafficking from Mexico, the United States ignores at its peril the dangers on its 4,121-mile border with Canada. More than 45 million cars and trucks, along with 80 million people, will cross the border this year from Canada into the United States. Any one of these people or vehicles could be hiding illegal aliens, carrying terrorists, transporting drugs or concealing weapons of mass destruction. These vehicles will be met by an undermanned force of immigration and customs inspectors, and a thinly stretched line of border agents. America must do a better job of securing the U.S.-Canada border.

A two-month investigation by The Washington Times of ports of entry from Washington state to Maine found that guarding the northern border had never been a priority for the White House or Capitol Hill, and that the failure to adequately fund security efforts along the northern border had forced the federal government to play catch up following the September 11 attacks. Moreover, there is no information, and the U.S. government does not even have an estimate, of the number of illegals who enter this country each year from Canada.

What is known is that the numbers are growing and that some of those attempting to sneak in could be terrorists. According to the newly formed Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCP), illegal immigrants from as many as 60 countries — including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, Yemen and Mexico — are apprehended each year attempting to illegally enter the United States from Canada. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are among the terrorist organizations present there. Both have a history of targeting Americans and may be interested in staging attacks on the United States in the future. Since 1995, at least 15 persons identified by federal authorities as terrorists have been caught attempting to cross the border from Canada into the United States.

Canada has taken steps since September 11 to strengthen its own border control efforts. These include new initiatives to identify and prosecute terrorists, to prevent terrorists from entering Canada and to keep the U.S.-Canada border secure. The problem is that approximately 300,000 immigrants are admitted to Canada each year, including some identified as terrorists by law-enforcement authorities.

One such individual was Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who used a fraudulent French passport to enter Canada in 1994. He requested political asylum from Canadian authorities, claiming to have been tortured in Algeria and falsely accused of terrorist activities. Without checking with the Algerian government, Canadian authorities released Ressam. He moved into an apartment complex in Montreal that was the headquarters of a terrorist cell connected to al Qaeda. In 1998, he traveled to Afghanistan, where he attended an al Qaeda training camp. In December 1999, Ressam was arrested by customs inspectors in Port Angeles, Wash., as he tried to enter the United States. He was subsequently convicted of attempting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport during the millennium celebrations.

The unfortunate reality is that — given the laxity of Canadian border control policies over the years — it is entirely possible, if not likely, that there are more Ressams hidden in Canada, waiting for the opportunity to sneak across the border to kill large numbers of Americans. It is essential that the United States press Canada to take further actions to uproot the terrorists who migrated there by falsely claiming to be refugees. Equally important, the United States must provide adequate resources to enable our own guardians of the border to do their job.

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