Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2002
WASHINGTON - The millions of Mexican illegal aliens in the United
States endanger national security by creating a demand for false
identity documents and smuggling networks that could alsoist
terrorists, experts said Tuesday.
The three experts, speaking at a panel hosted by Nixon Center and
Center for Immigration Studies, also said that amnesty for Mexican
illegal aliens in the United States should not be considered until
immigration enforcement at the U.S.-Mexican border is strengthened.
Robert Leiken, a guest scholar at Nixon Center, said that Mexican
illegal aliens themselves did not pose a terror threat. But operating
in the shadow economy, they help to undermine the rule of law in the
United States and in Mexico, he said.
"Mexican immigrants are not a direct threat to homeland security,"
Leiken said. "The real problem is that a large illegal population
creates an active market for illegal documents."
Leiken said that helping Mexico guard its borders should be one of the
most important items on the U.S.-Mexico foreign relations agenda,
especially in light of Sept. 11. Another critical aspect of control
should be increased immigration law enforcement within U.S. workplaces,
"Earned legalization must be sufficiently stringent as to discourage
illegal immigration, something the 1986 'amnesty' failed to do. That is
why the program must be linked not only to shared U.S. and Mexican
border responsibility but also to regularly enforced employer
sanctions," he said.
George Grayson, a professor of government at the College of William and
Mary, said that the Mexican Ministry of the Interior needed to improve
the reach and the behavior of its border agents.
His 2001 study of the conditions for illegal aliens at the
Guatemalan-Mexican border showed that more than 100 criminal
organizations continue to move migrants across the frontier, at times
through theistance of corrupt border officials.
Middle Eastern, African, and Asian aliens are among the many passing
through from Central America, creating a U.S. security threat, the
experts said. Despite recent enforcement reforms and crackdowns by the
United States and by Mexican President Vincente Fox, illegal
immigration continues steadily, they said.
'A Sieve Blasted by Buckshot'
"The Mexican-Guatemalan border is a sieve blasted by buckshot. There
are more than 200 clandestine crossing points," Grayson said.
Post-Sept. 11 border security has been a major consideration to the
Bush administration. The president's 2003 budget contained money to
double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol and major increases in
Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Under Bush's plan for a Department of Homeland Security, all border and
port security would be handled in one agency and the administration
anticipates far greater control over who enters or leaves the country.
The annual legal quota for Mexican immigrants is 75,000. Before Sept.
11, Fox and other Mexican officials requested that the quota be raised
to 250,000, even if the Mexicans were permitted in only as temporary
An amnesty program for the millions of illegal Mexican workers in the
United States was a key Mexican request at a February 2001 presidential
summit between Fox and George W. Bush. But since Sept. 11, amnesty and
legalization programs have taken a back seat to border enforcement, the
In his remarks, Leiken also said he believed more Mexican illegal
aliens should receive legal spots in the United States to reduce the
pool of illegals.
But Steven Camarota, director of research at Center for Immigration
Studies, an organization that is often critical of open immigration
policy, said he thought U.S. policy should focus on reducing the number
of Mexican and low-skill immigrants.
Taxpayer Subsidy to Cheapskate Employers
His research showed that Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, were
costing U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars a year though their use of
publicistance. He thinks their benefit to the economy is small.
"In effect, Mexican immigration acts as a subsidy to businesses that
employ unskilled workers, holding down labor costs, while taxpayers
pick up the costs of providing services to a much larger poor and
low-income population," he said.
Copyright 2002 by United Press International.