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Jewish World Review May 24, 2002 / 13 Sivan, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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An antiquated luxury of the past | "We can do a better job of making our borders more secure," President Bush said last week before signing legislation designed to do exactly that. "We must know who's coming into our country and why they're coming. We must know what our visitors are doing and when they leave," he continued, adding, "It's knowledge necessary to make our homeland more secure."

Easier said than done? You bet. For all the spiffy, new immigration guidelines provided by the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Bill (intensifying immigration checks at American ports-of-entry; creating an easy-access database of known terrorists; strengthening the student visa program; and hiring 400 new INS inspectors and investigators) the same old problem remains: an understaffed and under-trained immigration agency overwhelmed by the magnitude of its duties.

Take the New York office of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. Bush may have just signed a grandly titled and -- with a $3.2 billion budget -- grandly priced bill into law, but the fact remains that today, on the ground, at our flagship port of entry, it's up to just 14 federal immigration agents, assisted by seven New York City police detectives and two state troopers unfamiliar with immigration law, to find and deport the roughly 1,200 illegal immigrants from Al Qaeda-active countries now thought to be in the New York vicinity. An even smaller federal squad, a mere seven agents, is supposed to be making sure that no illegal immigrants from Arab or Muslim nations hold any of the several thousand potentially sensitive jobs at local airports and nuclear plants. Cross your fingers and hope none of these guys catches a cold. Meanwhile, no one from the New York office has had time even to begin what the INS calls a national priority -- tracking down student-visa violators from Muslim and Arab nations.

"They just have nowhere near enough people," said James K. Kallstrom, a former assistant director of the FBI and a security adviser to New York Gov. George E. Pataki, To the New York Times in a recent article. "They need a geometric increase."

Why the thin, thin, thin blue line? Low morale and equally low pay, say agents and union officials.

Topping out at $49,959 a year, rank-and-file special agents make nearly $10,000 less than their counterparts at other federal law enforcement agencies, an economic fact of life that often leads INS agents to move on to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Customs Service and other better-paying agencies. Perhaps it's no wonder, then, as The New York Times reported, the law enforcement arm of the New York INS office is operating at roughly half-strength. Where as many as 150 agents worked there in years past, just 80 federal agents are now responsible not only for the more routine crimes of immigrant smuggling and document fraud, but also for new and urgent terrorism-related duties. "Much of their work," the newspaper wrote, "remains undone."

And will remain undone for the foreseeable future, despite lawmakers' efforts to date. The border-security bill promises to plug some of the holes in our borders, but implementation takes time -- for example, more than a year, say INS officials, just to get new agents recruited, trained and assigned. Why so long? It sounds like a major recruitment campaign to beef up the INS is in order. With our leaders preparing us not just for the possibility of future attack but for its deadly certainty, time is an antiquated luxury of the past. Something needs to be done now to protect ports like New York.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


05/21/02: From terrorists to tourists
05/19/02: Hate U.
05/07/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
05/03/02: Pioneering television
05/01/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West