Monday, June 27, 2005

It has now been almost four years since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But because the Bush administration has not made a priority of securing our border and enforcing the immigration laws within the United States itself, it has also failed in at least one instance to secure a weapons-of-mass-destruction facility on our own soil.

The Energy Department inspector general June 14 completed a report revealing illegal aliens had been working at one of the department’s “most sensitive sites.”

The location was the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. In his report, Energy Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman said: “The mission of Y-12 includes the manufacture of nuclear weapons components; weapons dismantlement, storage and evaluation; and the warehousing of enriched uranium material.” The IG discovered the Energy Department had hired a contractor who used illegal alien workers for a construction project at the facility.

“We found that foreign construction workers, using false documents, gained access to the Y-12 site on multiple occasions,” said the report. “Specifically, we determined 16 foreign construction workers were illegal aliens. Some of these workers acquired facility access badges and were permitted access to the main Y-12 site, and others were permitted access to an adjacent Y-12 leased facility. Certain information associated with construction of the Y-12 leased facility, which was planned to store documents up to the Secret-Restricted Data level was considered Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information (UCNI) and Official Use Only (OUO). Consequently, these individuals may have had opportunities to inappropriately access this type of information.”

Now count the presumed layers of homeland defense these illegal aliens defeated: First, they defeated the defenses we put at our borders to stop people from entering the country illegally or from entering with the intent to stay beyond the terms of their visa. Second, they defeated the defenses we put within the country itself to discover those who are living and working here illegally. Third, they defeated the defenses put in place by the Energy Department to stop unknown foreign nationals from working inside a nuclear weapons facility.

“Also, we learned that the Office of Counterintelligence was not aware of the presence of foreign construction workers at the Y-12 leased facility until notified by the Office of Inspector General during this inspection,” reported Mr. Friedman. “Counterintelligence checks had not been performed for these individuals to that point.”

Well, at least we caught them after they got inside Y-12.

On June 21, I testified at a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security that focused on the “national security need for work site enforcement” and on “whether the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has utilized enough resources toward this effort.” Richard Stana, director of Homeland Security issues for the Government Accountability Office, also testified.

Mr. Stana told the committee in a written statement that work site enforcement was “a low priority” for ICE. “[B]etween fiscal years 1999 and 2003, the most recent fiscal year for which comparable data are available, the percentage of agent work years spent on work-site enforcement efforts generally decreased from about 9 percent, or 240 full-time equivalents, to about 4 percent or 90 full-time equivalents,” said Mr. Stana.

The law says ICE can fine an employer up to $11,000 for knowingly hiring an illegal alien. But in fiscal year 2004, Mr. Stana said, ICE notified only three U.S. employers it intended to fine them for hiring illegal aliens.

Because the administration has not dedicated the resources needed — or shown the political will — to stop illegal aliens at the border, or to stop employers from hiring them inside the United States, America’s de facto border now runs through Oak Ridge, Tenn.

We have found a place where the immigration laws will actually be enforced: It is inside the gates of a nuclear weapons plant.

Terence P. Jeffrey is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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