Friday, June 22, 2007

Most of us have seen how mission control at Cape Canaveral conducts a countdown before the space shuttle is launched.

Many engineers, scientists and other essential personnel sit before their consoles monitoring various factors that determine if the launch should be made. Generally, they respond with a “Go” or “No Go” response when asked by the flight director if their respective element of the launch is functioning properly. Generally, each of these highly trained personnel is backed up by a staff of many others sitting in a back room along with banks of computers.

In most cases, if any member of the launch team does not give a “thumbs up” indicating satisfaction with his area of responsibility, the launch is postponed. This is done to ensure the safety of crewmembers and space shuttle and to make certain the objectives of the mission will be successfully carried out.

The Senate is poised to begin a debate about an extremely critical mission advocated by the president and the majority of the members of the Senate committee that came up with a proposed immigration reform bill. The implications for the United States, where this bill is concerned, are of the utmost significance for our nation. Immigration impacts so many other aspects of the United States, starting with national security and criminal justice, and including the economy, education, health care and the environment.

We could compare the debate about the wisdom of the proposed legislation with the preflight preparation of scientists and engineers charged with launching the space shuttle who provide their perspectives in determining whether to launch. If I had a seat at that debate, much like a member of a launch team, I would give the legislation an emphatic “No Go.”

There are many reasons I adamantly oppose the legislation, but first and foremost is national security. This aspect has not been addressed in any public debate, including the televised debates involving the presidential candidates. No matter which scheme we are to consider concerning the fate of the unknown millions of illegal aliens present in our country, one common factor remains: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would have to provide identity documents to those millions of undocumented aliens who have absolutely no documentary evidence to verify their true identities.

Though former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Arizona’s Sen. John McCain are eager to invoke the recommendations of the September 11 Commission and provide those undocumented illegal aliens with what they describe as “tamper-proof” identity documents, there really is no way to know what name or even what nationality should be imprinted on those millions of supposedly secure identity documents.

There is no way an adjudicator at USCIS can look at an applicant and know who he or she is. The USCIS also would be unable to know when, where or how the applicant entered the U.S. That is what the term “undocumented” means.

Those who advocate for a guest worker amnesty program attempt to gloss over this critical issue by saying that our government would simply use “high-tech” biometric methods. What does that mean? If a person lies about his or her identity and has never been fingerprinted in our country, what will enable the bureaucrats at USCIS to know that person’s true identity? If the adjudicators simply run a fictitious identity though a computerized database, they will simply find the name has no known connection to any criminal or terrorist watch lists. What is the value? Remember, we are talking about a false name.

There is absolutely no way this program would have even a shred of integrity and the identity documents that would be given these millions of illegal aliens would enable every one of them to receive a driver’s license, Social Security card and other such official identity documents in a false name.

Undoubtedly, terrorists would be among those applying to participate in this ill-conceived program. They would then be able to open bank accounts and obtain credit cards in that same false name. Finally, these cards would enable these aliens to board airliners and trains even if their true names appear on all of the various terrorist watch lists and “no fly” lists. That is why I have come to refer to this legislation as the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act of 2007.”

A final thought. To once again draw an analogy between the debate concerning this legislation and the launch process at Cape Canaveral: On Jan. 28, 1986, members of the launch team warned the flight director and others that the cold weather should cause them to postpone the flight of the space shuttle Challenger. They were ignored and the Challenger and its precious and irreplaceable crew of seven astronauts, including the astronaut-teacher Christa McAuliffe, were obliterated in an explosion 73 seconds after liftoff.

The astronauts paid the ultimate price because management at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) refused to listen to the advice of those with legitimate concerns about the safety of the launch procedure that terrible day. I fear if our nation’s leaders rush to create a fatally flawed program in the name of “comprehensive immigration reform” that many U.S. citizens will ultimately pay a similar price because our government is failing to take into account the advice of the September 11 Commission and many experts in an effort to please special-interest groups and deep-pocket campaign contributors.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

Michael Cutler, is a retired U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) senior agent who led major INS drug-trafficking investigations for more than two decades.

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