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Jewish World Review Nov. 29 2001 / 14 Kislev, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws -- AMERICANS are unlikely to forget that all 19 of the 9/11 hijackers werenon-citizens who had entered the United States legally. When men like these can enter legally, it's time to change the laws.

We are also going to remember that three of the hijackers (including their leader) could have been deported before Sept. 11, since their visas had expired - had the INS bothered to track them down.

Overhauling immigration law to keep out terrorists is a political issue which will garner wide support. Those who stand in the way, will do so at their political peril.

Look at the Nov. 16 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll:

  • By 85 percent to 11 percent, Americans support imposing stricter control on foreign student visas.

  • By 90 percent to 7 percent, Americans want these tougher limits on immigration from countries "thought to be connected to terrorists."

  • By 65 percent to 29 percent, they favor "temporarily sealing U.S. borders and stopping all immigration in the United States during the war on terrorism."

The constitution offers little bar to an immigration crackdown. No one has a right to enter the country except a citizen.

In identifying nations whose citizens have frequently engaged in terrorism, Secretary of State Colin Powell took an important step toward an effective immigration policy.

Historically, the United States has always treated foreigners who seek entry to our shores differently depending on where they come from. We should have one standard for people from countries identified by Secretary Powell as linked to terrorism and another for all others.

Why do we grant student visas at all to people who come from nations with links to terrorism? While it is a good idea to expose young foreigners, particularly the elite of each nation, to the joys and rigors of a U.S. university education, isn't this good outweighed by the possibility that those we let in may slit our throats?

The INS claims to be overworked in policing 5 million foreigners who are in the U.S. on visas or green cards. Despite estimates that as many as 2 million of these permits have expired, the agency says it lacks the staff or deportation courts to track them down and send them home.

But surely the agency can be given enough resources to go after those from nations with links to terror who are here on expired visas.

Indeed, we can go further in pinpointing those foreign citizens within our borders who should command our attention. Mohammed Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11th terrorists, was not only here on an expired visa, but was also wanted by the Florida courts - who had issued a bench warrant for his arrest - for driving without a license. We should give special attention to deporting those from terrorist nations, with expired visas, who are wanted on arrest warrants.

When the issue of immigration reform has been raised in the past, particularly by Republicans, it has usually centered around policing our border against Mexican and other Hispanic illegal immigrants. Bush has wisely deleted this from his party's priorities because of the hostile reaction it has prompted from Hispanic-American voters.

But the immigration issue, recast as a key element in the war on terror, should move to the very top of the political agenda. Our immigration law is our skin - our first line of defense against foreign bacteria.

JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, The New Prince. Comment by clicking here.


11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris