Robert Lieken Speech at FAIR 25th Anniversary Celebration
Speech delivered by Robert S. Leiken of The Nixon Center to the 25th Annual FAIR National Board of Advisors Meeting
I’m happy to be here to help FAIR observe its 25th anniversary of notable service. Twenty-five years in which your organization grew national prominence. From the standpoint of American immigration reform, 25 years of frustration. Reform was stymied by elites pursuing cheap labor or cheap compassion, by elites bullying reformers with charges of racism and nativism. During that time mass immigration has doubled. But the Faustian bargain for cheap foreign labor which rebuilt American inner cities and brought us polite service providers and journeymen also pushed Americans, especially minorities, out of their jobs and neighborhoods, stifled automation, bid down wages and overwhelmed our roads, our vistas and our schools. Yes, it provided remittances to poor countries but also robbed those countries of their youth and helps them escape difficult decisions to modernize. It produces a co-dependency between failed third world economies and a first world economy dependent on a caste that cannot speak or vote.
All that has survived the bell that tolled three years ago. Before September 11 the entire nation was on an immigration binge: the AFL-CIO abandoned its historic opposition to mass immigration and sought to make up for fewer private sector unionized workers by organizing illegal ones. Civil rights groups argued that immigrants should receive the same legal protections as American citizens. Religious groups pushed for admission of foreign adherents. On the morning of September 11 2001 President Bush was recovering from a week of feting Mexican President Vicente Fox, the high priest of open borders. When Fox said to jump up the number of illegal aliens to be amnestied, America’s political leaders answered: “how high?”
But September 11 exposed appalling gaps in our immigration system. It intruded on the budding Fox-Bush immigration romance like the uninvited witch at a royal wedding. Immigration, which had seemed to offer only gentle and inexpensive gardeners and nannies, suddenly appeared perilous when viewed through the somber lens of homeland security, something hardly thought of before September 11. Vulnerability stared at us from every airport, bridge, chemical and nuclear plant, water system, computer terminal, salad bar and unopened envelope. We learned that even benign Canada, home to a nation of mild-mannered neighbors, hosted 50 Islamist terrorist groups.
Then the news broke on our heads that the agencies assigned to shield us were not up to the job. One after one they were implicated and fell into disrepute: the Federal Aviation Authority, the Transportation Department, the FBI, the CIA, etc… But for sheer incompetence the INS had no peer, capable of sending student visa notifications to defunct hijackers six months after they had plowed into the Manhattan skyline. And it was with this agency that we would “regularize” millions of illegal immigrants? Meanwhile, Border Patrol officers were forsaking their poorly paid and daunting work for jobs as air marshals.
Dan Stein invited me to speak here today about our Nixon Center studyBearers of Global Jihad: Immigration and National Security after September 11. Here are a few of its conclusions.
With the single exception of Oklahoma City, all major terrorist attacks in the West since the first World Trade Center bombing have been carried out by immigrants. The bottom line is this: Islamist terrorists routinely employ immigration as a strategic weapon in asymmetric war against the West. This means that immigration has a national security dimension, indeed it means that immigration has a national securitypriority.
Now it is true that very few immigrants are terrorists, that immigrants are more likely to be victims of terrorism than perpetrators of it. Take Madrid for example. Half of the victims of the Madrid bombings were immigrants. But if it is true that most immigrants are not terrorists, it is equally true that most terrorists are immigrants. It is also the case, as Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former editor of the prestigious al Sharq al Awsat, has recently written: “not all Muslims are terrorists but, regrettably, the majority of the terrorists in the world are Muslims.” Actually, the vast majority are Muslims. Both the United States and Europe must understand this central fact: al Qaeda, an organization which accepts only Muslims as members, is deliberately and intentionally employing Muslim migration as an unconventional strategic weapon in a world war.
In our study we developed an initial data base of 212 jihadis in the West arrested and awaiting trial or convicted or killed before and since September 11. Subsequently we have updated it to 340 and will continue to update it as we seek funding for the project. Our analysis of that data, our matrix, found that jihadis utilize all modes of immigration: business, student, tourist visas, employment visas; the Visa Waiver Program, illegal entry, asylum claims, as well as naturalization and recruitment of second generation immigrant citizens.
Our second important finding was that we found a startling number of these terrorists to be Europeans. For example more French nationals than nationals of Pakistan and Yemen combined; more Britons than Sudanese, Yemenis, Emiratis, Lebanese, or Libyans. Accordingly, our study argued that the most urgent national security danger from immigration comes not from illegal immigration or Latino immigration but from Muslim immigrants in Europe who reach the United States on visas or through our Visa Waiver Program which covers virtually all of Western Europe. Members of the Hamburg cell, led by Mohammed Atta, were treated by the State Department as German Visa Waiver travelers. This is a fact few Americans are aware of. Our Visa Waiver Program as currently applied and implemented is a grave national security problem. In Western Europe, al Qaeda and allied groups have selected a region whose nationals can travel without the scrutiny devoted to those coming from regions with a widely recognized al Qaeda presence.
According to a lengthy staff report to the 9-11 Commission, the CIA found that al Qaeda has a bureau of fraudulent travel documents which alters travel papers and identification cards. Bin Laden’s operational training course teaches operatives how to forge documents. His organization employs a cadre of travel facilitators who specialize in obtaining fraudulent documents, arranging real or fake visas and making other travel arrangements. Al Qaeda specifically recruits operatives who speak the language corresponding to illicit travel documents. Beside these operatives al Qaeda also pays hundreds of outside vendors of fraudulent documents, greedy travel agencies, corrupt government officials and alien smugglers. It studies visa and entry and requirements and structures travel to avoid suspicion. As the 9-11 staff report notes, al Qaeda expends “considerable effort thinking about travel.” All this reinforces one of our basic conclusions: al Qaeda has an immigration strategy.
When reviewing this problem of Islamist terrorism and immigration it is important to recognize Islamist terrorists use two forms of attack: the sleeper cell and the hit squad. The sleeper cell poses a threat from the inside and is usually based in the immigrant community (as was the case of the Madrid bombings). On the other hand hit squads attack from the outside the country, deploying aliens assembled overseas, who enter the country with a specific mission (like the September 11 hijackers). This combination of sleeper cells and hit teams means that our system of safeguards cannot focus exclusively either on foreign visitors or on landed immigrants. From an operational standpoint, sleeper cells and hit squads challenge opposite ends of the immigration system, engaging our entire system, starting with entry visas and continuing right through to assimilation and naturalization.
Broadly speaking, the chief tools for deterring hit squads are intelligence and exclusion. Exclusion takes two forms: comprehensive, timely and accessible watch lists, as a first line of defense, a safety first, professional and deft visa process, ports of entry outfitted with computerized entry-exit systems and inspectors trained in terrorist travel methods. To defend against sleeper cells we need, not only first-class intelligence and surveillance, but also a third element: patriotic or “identificational” assimilation, a term invented by the great immigration scholar Milton Gordon back in 1964.
As Gordon stressed, assimilation has many facets, but from the standpoint of national security what counts most is identificational assimilation. Does the immigrant regard the United States as his or her country? Does the immigrant feel an emotional attachment, a sense of peoplehood? Identificational assimilation is crucial because it induces loyalty, especially during wartime. The war on terrorism calls for informed assimilation and that means a 21st century program of Americanization and citizenship promotion.
Where identificational assimilation fails, jihad can flourish. That is especially the case today in many European countries with large Muslim populations. And that is why Muslim assimilation must be a clearly articulated national security objective for the United States. Fortunately our more welcoming immigration tradition and the provenance of our Muslims means that we have a much less serious sleeper cell threat. As far as we know, the few American Muslims receptive to jihad have been supporters of Palestinian Islamist groups, have funded terrorism abroad rather than executed it here. To strike at the United States, it appears that al Qaeda generally has had to rely not on domestic recruitment but on infiltration, often of European-savvy Muslims.
Now why does Europe have a more pronounced problem with terrorists in their Muslim communities? First, whereas American immigrants are divided among many nationalities, European countries tend to have concentrations from one country: France: Algerians; Britain: Pakistanis; Spain: Moroccans. Moreover, European Muslims tend to be poorer and to live in enclaves unlike their American counterparts who are dispersed across the country. American Muslims tend to be professional or business people, far more affluent than their European co-religionists. Radical Islamism has a mass following in Europe; today we have a Muslim population with comparatively low mosque attendance and higher rates of assimilation.
A second factor explaining the difference between Europe’s more radicalized Muslim community and ours is America’s gradual approach to assimilation. We have pursued a mix of assimilation modes. In the first or second generation, immigrants usually retain much of their ethnic identity. Unlike, say, the French, we do not demand abrupt assimilation early. Rather, our process reserves newcomers a certain cultural autonomy not just in the private but also, to an extent, in the public sphere. This relative autonomy respecting assimilation pertains also to religion. The French ban the Muslim headscarf in public schools; the Germans ban its wear by public employees. The British celebrate it. We tolerate it. Rules for the federal workplace require “government supervisors to respect individual expressions of faith by federal employees. Christians will be able to keep Bibles on their desks, Muslim women will be able to wear headscarves and Jews can stay out on high holy days.”
In the second generation, the immigrant descendant usually embraces what Sam Huntington calls the “Anglo-Protestant culture” of America. Over time, usually three or four generations, the melting pot kicks in, involving intermarriage and fusion.
This mixed American mode of assimilation has worked well in the past, but it has always rested on several conditions:
None of those conditions apply today.
So it should come as no surprise that today we have an ominous problem of social cohesion, of societal security, especially among Latinos, and most critically among second generation Latinos. We need a pause in immigration both to permit the assimilation process to“catch up”#8212and to allow more effective screening of potential terrorists.
But we must be careful not to demagogue. There are excellent reasons to halt illegal immigration, good national security reasons for doing so but we should not confuse illegal immigration with terrorism. Several 9-11 terrorists carried phony identification papers and several used altered passports; one overstayed his visa; but most came in on valid visas and passports. None sneaked across the border; I am only aware of one al Qaeda terrorist who has sneaked across the Mexican border. But that is the biggest port of illegal entry. The illegal immigrant sneaks through deserts; the Islamist terrorist prefers transatlantic jets and may, like Ramzi Youssef, travel in first class supposedly “to allay suspicion.”
Those are some of the main conclusions of our study which is available at http://www.nixoncenter.org/ or by writing to the Nixon Center.
America’s “problem” immigrants are not Muslims but mainly Latinos. But the latter actually present high rates of military enlistment and other indices of identification with the host country.
I first became interested in immigration because for a decade I lived and worked and socialized in Mexico and became bi-lingual. But I agree with Sam Huntington that we have a major predicament of lopsided, immoderately large, uniquely prolonged Mexican immigration which is illegal in unacceptable proportions. Never has a single sender country so dominated American immigration, still less one that shares with us 2000 treacherous miles.
I said earlier that Latino immigrants represent a problem of societal not national security; for the simple reason that al Qaeda and company are Muslim organizations and there are few Latino Muslims. Most Latinos are Catholic and the rising Latino religion is Evangelical Protestantism. But there is a danger that this societal security problem (dividing America into a bi-lingual society) could become a national security problem. The name of that problem is Jose Padilla, the “dirty bomber”—a Puerto Rican who converted to Islam in prison. We have hundreds of thousands of Latinos in jails today and scores of radical Islamist chaplains working in those prisons. Catastrophe would not require mass Muslim conversion of Latinos. A few can form a terrorist sleeper cell and obtain al Qaeda assistance.
Mexican immigration presents both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for immigration reduction. Why shouldn’t Mexicans, the largest immigrant group, be the first to contract? But restriction will be undertaken most prudently with Mexican government cooperation not its antagonism. A Mexican Palestine on our southern border would be a national security crisis. Thus it was wise to involve Mexico in bi-lateral talks on immigration, even if their outcome so far has been Bush’s wretched, unwieldy, guest worker proposal which extracted no concessions from Mexico. Fortunately it has proved to be sheer electoral symbolism.
We cannot appease Mexico for the sake of the Latino vote. We must rescue our immigration policy from niche politics and immigration lobbyists immigration policy cannot remain hostage to the Latino vote or the soccer mom vote.
To really curtail mass immigration we need to help build Mexico as a buffer and as a beacon of economic development for other Latin American countries. At bottom immigration is the residue of corrupt, failed 3rd world economies. We can talk more about my Mexican immigration deal in q and a or you can read about it in my CIS studyEnchilada Lite or in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of The National Interest.
The 9-11 Commission documents how a priority on drugs and illegal immigration led consular officers and immigration inspectors to ignore terrorist indicators. The immediate existential threat to us today comes from Islamist terrorists. It involves Muslim immigrants coming from Europe not Mexicans crossing the southern border. But we shall commit slow national suicide if we ignore illegal Mexican immigration. The national security crisis of 9-11, the threat posed by Muslim terrorist infiltration, must lead to a national immigration policy. Once we have decided as a country that immigration policy must be decided by national interest, we can begin to reduce immigration and focus on this long term threat.
Immigration is part of national security, a subordinate part not coequal. Immigration policy cannot be shaped by the insider liberal-libertarian alliance of interest groups and lobbyists. Immigration must be based on an appraisal of national requirements: economic demands, societal needs and, most urgently, national security. In our study we wrote: “The kind of scrutiny that national security now demands of immigration cannot be accomplished with the current correlation of officials and immigrants. Either more government or fewer immigrants.” Both national security and societal security require a pause in mass immigration. We currently do not have the resources to monitor 500 million border crossings per year.
Ever since the inauguration of this organization, for as long as multiculturalism remained the dominant ideology and interest group politics determined immigration policy, reform was paralyzed. But September 11, the remarkable bi-partisan consensus of the 9-11 Commission, the breakthrough of Sam Huntington’s brave last book, and recent coverage by Lou Dobbs, FOX and TIME magazine are raining on the mass immigration parade. After 9-11, the public no longer views immigrants simply as deserving victims and inexpensive handymen but possibly national security threats. Economics is no longer the sole object of immigration policy as can be demonstrated by the Bush administration’s failure to lobby for its Mexican immigration proposal and its attempt to justify it as “controlling our borders.” Moreover, after 9-11, patriotism is in a position to challenge multiculturalism. Immigration can now be rescued from the congressional cloak room and placed on the national agenda. What we need now is an independent September 11 type commission to appraise our immigration needs and recommend a post-9/11 national immigration policy guidelines to Congress. From Dan Stein’s account today, that is beginning to happen.
Robert S. Leiken, “The End of an Affair? Immigration, Security and the U.S. Mexican Relationship,” The National Interest (Winter 2002-03), and Robert S. Leiken, Enchilada Lite: A Post 9/11 Mexican Migration Agreement, (Washington, D.C.: Center for Immigration Studies), March 2002.