By Jasper, William F.
The New American , Vol. 20, No. 23
In the rush to adjourn before the elections, both houses of Congress passed bills aimed at implementing the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (The 9/11 Commission). The Senate was first to the finish line, passing S. 2845 on October 6 by an overwhelming 96-2 vote. The House followed on October 8, passing H.R. 10 by a vote of 282 to 134. The House and Senate bills differ in significant details, most especially with regard to what is arguably the most pressing security issue facing our nation: control of our borders.
The House bill contains important border enforcement provisions, including an increase of 2,000 border patrol agents per year for fiscal years 2006-2010; an increase of 800 immigration and customs investigators per year for fiscal years 2006 2010; and expedited removal of illegal aliens and suspected terrorists.
The House bill would change the law so that illegal aliens who have been in the United States for less than five years could be removed from the country without a judicial review. Currently, illegal aliens who have been here for longer than two years get an extrajudicial review. With this increased enforcement and removal capability, we could have some hope of stemming the ongoing alien crisis that is making internal security impossible.
The 9/11 Commission's report noted that "more than 9 million people" are in the U.S. illegally. It acknowledged the danger posed by our out-of-control borders, stating: "As we know from the sizable illegal traffic across our land borders, a terrorist could attempt to bypass legal procedures and enter the United States surreptitiously." It further admitted that our security screening for visas had been pathetic prior to 9/11, citing the fact that, "beginning in 1997, the 19 hijackers submitted 24 applications and received 23 visas." Nevertheless, the commission paid only minor lip service to gaining control of our borders and focused its main emphasis on recommendations that proposed vast new powers for the federal government, along with serious new infringements of the rights of U.S. citizens.
After releasing its 567-page report in July, the 9/11 Commission members made many appearances before House and Senate committee hearings, then fanned out across the country on speaking tours and appearances on radio and television talk shows and news programs. Their purpose was to build pressure on Congress to enact the commission's agenda before adjourning prior to the elections. They targeted Republican members of Congress, especially conservatives in the House who would try to shore up our borders.
Obviously, Republican leadership would be needed for this effort. No problem; that's precisely the reason why the commission had been loaded up with liberal Republican internationalists, and why former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean had been appointed to chair the commission. Together with the Bush White House and the internationalist GOP leaders in Congress, Kean and company blitzed the House members.
On October 18, the White House sent a 10-page letter to the congressional leaders urging swift action. The letter outlined the administration's position, which mostly lined up with the Senate version and opposed inclusion of the House's immigration controls and border enforcement.
The Bush-Kean team had another potent weapon. A number of vocal family members of 9/11 victims were taking an active role in lobbying Congress. Some of them mistakenly believe that the 9/11 Commission recommendations will solve the security problems that allowed the 9/11 attacks to succeed. Although many of the family members agree that border enforcement is essential, they were persuaded by the Bush administration and the 9/11 Commission that it should not be allowed to stand in the way of other "more important" 9/11 recommendations, such as reorganizing U.S. intelligence. Border concerns will be dealt with later, they have been told. …