A Decade after 9/11: The Fear of Lax Immigration Enforcement Still Haunts America
Today, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist savagery of September 11, 2001, the nation pauses to remember the fallen and reflect on how our country has changed in the decade past. PBS and The New Yorker offer worthy contemplations on the changes since 9/11 and today, and two immigration lawyers, Cyrus Mehta and Jonathan Montag, on opposite coasts, ponder the immigration aftermath of the tragedy. (My own writings not long after the event are here, here, here and there.)
Amid the many reflections, Twitter has been even more abuzz than usual. One exchange of tweets caught my eye. Michelle Malkin, anti-immigration commentator on Fox News, argued with a fellow who maintained that the none of the 9/11 hijackers were undocumented immigrants. She posted a link and got him to admit that although all of them had entered legally, three had overstayed their visas. She ended the exchange with this coup de grâce:
[@TweepNameOmitted] You are willfully blind to the nexus between lax immigration enforcement & homeland security. Shame.
Few objective observers would deny that immigration enforcement and homeland security are linked, or that too lax an enforcement regimen could well threaten our country's safety. But a fundamental question remains. Has the federal government properly achieved the right balance in the middle between the extremes of super-enforcement -- a hermetically sealed country that would atrophy without external refreshment -- and a breezily open-door approach that allows the bad to enter with the good? Has it balanced immigration enforcement with immigration benefits?
My answer would be mostly "no." The problem originated with Congress's effort to try and fix things. It placed the benefits-conferring function of the abolished Immigration and Naturalization Service within the Homeland Security Department when it should have remained under the Attorney General at Justice. No adjudicator can focus on eligibility for benefits when the mission and message of homeland security is that if there is the slightest, even phantasmagorical, doubt, keep people out.
Thus, we see the penchant for adjudicator rejection by any means necessary at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and at U.S. consular posts abroad of worthy immigration-benefits requests. It matters not if the means are pretextual, circuitous, dilatory or disingenuous. Any boilerplate Request for Evidence, Denial, Refusal or Revocation based on spurious grounds will do. The Congressionally-induced and media-generated perception of pervasive fraud as a straw-man for delay and refusal likewise will suffice. Hypocrisy, thus, is salved by the false ointment of feigned patriotism.
Real patriotism, in my view, would bear in mind these anti-Malkinesque messages, also found on Twitter:
#Obama: We remember that among the nearly 3,000 innocent people lost that day were hundreds of citizens from more than 90 nations. #911
#Obama: As a nation of immigrants, the United States welcomes people from every country and culture. #911
In other words, we as a nation must heed the "Call to Courage" and "Reclaim . . . Our Liberties," as the ACLU reports. Yes, of course, we must perform all manner of security checks, fully and efficiently, thoughtfully scrutinize all immigration benefits requests for compliance with law in good faith, and keep out the dangerous and undeserving.
But never tie the tourniquets so tightly that you cut off our limbs. The torch-bearing Lady Liberty, who lights the Golden Door, must never become an amputee.