TIME reports
Mon Sep 13, 2004 01:02


Sun Sep 12 2004

The U.S.’s borders, rather than become more secure since 9/11, have grown even more porous and the trend has accelerated in the past year. Based on a TIME investigation, it’s fair to estimate that the number of illegal aliens flooding into the U.S. this year will total 3 million, enough to fill 22,000 Boeing 737-700 airliners, or 60 flights every day. It will be the largest wave since 2001 and roughly triple the number of immigrants who will come to America by legal means, TIME reports in its cover story , "Who Left the Door Open?" (on newsstands Monday, Sept. 13th).

In a single day, more than 4,000 illegal aliens will walk across the busiest unlawful gateway into the U.S., the border between Arizona and Mexico. And many will obtain phony identification papers, including bogus Social Security numbers, to conceal their true identities and mask their unlawful presence. TIME’s Pulitzer Prize winning investigative team, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, takes a look at the damage, the dangers, and the reasons America fails to protect itself as millions of illegal aliens pour across the U.S.-Mexican border this year, many from countries hostile to America.

Who are these new arrivals?

While the vast majority are Mexicans, a small but sharply growing number come from other countries, including those with large populations hostile to the U.S. From Oct. 1 of last year until Aug. 25, the border patrol estimates, it apprehended along the southwest border 55,890 people who fall into the category described officially as other than Mexicans, or OTMS. With five weeks remaining in the fiscal year, the number is nearly double the 28,048 apprehended in all of 2002. But that’s just how many were caught.

Based on longtime government formulas for calculating how many elude capture, TIME estimates that as many as 190,000 illegals from countries other than Mexico have melted into the U.S. population so far this year. The border patrol, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security, refuses to break down OTMS by country. But local law officers, ranchers and others who daily confront the issue tell TIME they have encountered not only a wide variety of Latin Americans (from Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Nicaragua and Venezuela) but also intruders from Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Russia and China, as well as people who said they were from Egypt, Iran and Iraq.

Law-enforcement authorities believe the mass movement of illegals offers the perfect cover for terrorists seeking to enter the U.S., especially since tighter controls have been imposed at airports.

Why Alien Criminals Are at Large in America

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of having 15 million illegals at large in society is Congress’s failure to insist that federal agencies separate those who pose a threat from those who don’t. The open borders, for example, allow illegals to come into the country, commit crimes and return home with little fear of arrest or punishment. From Oct. 1, 2003, until July 20, 2004, the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector stopped 9,051 persons crossing into the country illegally who had criminal records in the U.S., meaning they committed crimes here, returned to Mexico, then were trying to reenter the country. Among them: 378 with active warrants for their arrest. In one week, said Border Patrol spokeswoman Andrea Zortman, there were two with outstanding "warrants for homicide."

Living in the War Zone

John Ladd Jr., a rancher just outside Bisbee, AZ, is forced to work the equivalent of several weeks a year to repair, as best he can, all the damage done to his property by never-ending swarms of illegal aliens. "Patience is my forte," Ladd says, "but it’s getting lower." The 14,000-acre Ladd ranch, in his mother’s family since the 1800s, is right on the border. Ladd says 200 to 300 illegals enter the U.S. Border crossing at the Ladd ranch each night and it is so flagrant that sometimes the illegals arrive by taxi.

Ladd doesn’t blame the border patrol, most of whose officers, he says, are doing all they can under the circumstances. Indeed, apprehensions of illegals in Arizona have soared from 9% of the nation’s total in 1993 to 51% this year. "I have real heartache for the agents who are really working. They track down the [smugglers], and the judges let them off, and they get a free trip back to Mexico, where they can start all over." The border patrol, Ladd feels, "are responsible guys in a hypocritical bureaucracy."

Rancher George Morin, who operates a 12,000-acre spread a few miles from the border, tells TIME, "All these people say they are coming for the amnesty program. [They] have been told if they get 10 miles off the border, they are home free." The highest levels of the U.S. and Mexican governments have orchestrated this situation as a kind of dance: Mexico sends its poor north to take jobs illegally, and the U.S., in turn, arrests enough of the border crossers to create the illusion that it is enforcing the immigration laws, while allowing the great majority to get through, TIME reports.

How Corporate America Thrives on Illegals

Investigations targeting employers of illegal aliens dropped more than 70%, from 7,053 in 1992 to 2,061 in 2002. Arrests on job sites declined from 8,027 in 1992 to 451 in 2002. Perhaps the most dramatic decline: the final orders levying fines for immigration-law violations plunged 99%, from 1,063 in 1992 to 13 in 2002. In 2002 the old Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) issued orders levying fines on only 13 employers for hiring illegal aliens, a minuscule portion of the thousands of offenders.

Both political parties and their candidates pay lip service to controlling the borders. But neither President Bush nor Senator Kerry supports a system that would end the incentive for border crossers by cracking down on the employers of illegals, TIME reports


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