Book Review of 'Invasion' by Michelle Malkin

By Gerda Bikales
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 13, Number 2 (Winter 2002-2003)
Issue theme: "Reports from the XXVI Annual Writers Workshop"

Invasion How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces

by Michelle Malkin

Washington, DC Regnery Publishing, Inc.

332 pages, $27.95

This book is a bracing antidote to the fatigue, cynicism and sense of futility that inevitably overtake all veteran immigration policy wonks working to improve the system. We have seen it all -- the appeasement of every pro-immigration lobby by politicians of all stripes, the distortion of every sensible argument for immigration limits, the ineptitude and corruption within the government agency charged with enforcing our immigration laws, the courts that consistently uphold law-breaking. Outrage in the service of open borders fails to get much of a rise out of us anymore.

So here comes Invasion, a new book by a new voice in the immigration debate that resonates with enough indignation, fury and exasperation to shake up even hardened cynics. In the wake of the disasters that befell our country on 9.11.01, the author takes a fresh look at this murky area of national policy and exposes in great detail an utterly failed operation, crying out for a top-to-bottom overhaul.

Michelle Malkin, a young American journalist whose parents immigrated from the Phillippines, brings to this task an immigrant's gratitude for the freedom and opportunity America delivered, and a deep resentment against those who abuse that freedom and opportunity in order to destroy the society offering it. The real objects of her ire, however, are Americans in positions of influence who could stop the glaring abuses but choose to look the other way while they pursue narrow self-interests.

Ms. Malkin is not timid. She writes clearly and without apologies. She points fingers and goes after her targets. No hedging, no evasiveness here. She has studied her subject and has organized her exposes for maximum comprehension and effect.

Not even the terror attacks that killed some three thousand innocents, flattened the World Trade Center, and savaged our economy have brought about the fundamental changes needed to protect our country from another deadly strike. A would-be terrorist might find it only slightly more difficult, or maybe just more inconvenient, to enter America today in pursuit of his mission. True, airport security jobs, which used to be the near-exclusive fiefdom of aliens, including many illegal ones, now require permanent legal residence. But after a brief hiatus following 9/11, when slowed air travel allowed for thorough inspection of passengers' documents and baggage, the press of growing air traffic has returned inspections to their frantic pace. The airline and tourism industries want rapid, no-fuss processing of passengers, and immigration supervisors oblige with orders to cut corners in the inspection of foreigners entering the United States, even those from countries known to harbor terrorists. Major seaports remain unequipped to handle smugglers and dangerous cargo, as no progress has been made to increase controls on ships and containers coming into the country.

Meanwhile, the issuance of visas goes on unabated. "In the six months following the attacks, the State Department issued more than fifty thousand new tourist, business, and student visas to non-Israeli visitors from the Middle East -- and another 140,000 new visitor visas to individuals across southern Asia, a haven for al-Queda" Malkin informs her readers. More incredible still: a bold but truthful terrorist filling out the State Department's visa application form DS-156 and answering YES to the question "Are you a member of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State?" is not necessarily rejected. The form assures the applicant that "A YES answer does not automatically signify ineligibility for a visa." There is still hope today for avowed terrorists.

The fate of aliens who manage to live in the country despite their illegal status comes in for close examination. Despite the heightened danger their presence represents in the post-9/11 era, most local police departments fail to coordinate their apprehensions of criminal aliens with immigration authorities. Immigration offenses are not perceived as serious law-breaking, and whatever cooperation may sporadically exist between local and immigration authorities tends to yield futile results. All too often, INS claims to have no detention facilities for the arrested aliens and routinely releases criminals in their own custody.

Ms. Malkin devotes a chapter to the 25-year criminal career of Angel Maturino Resendiz, a one-man crime wave who killed twelve people in the U.S. before ending up on death row in a Texas prison. He repeatedly came to the attention of the INS, was repeatedly repatriated to Mexico, only to return again for more mayhem. Failure to use available INS and FBI biometric databases to check Resendiz's immigration and criminal history prolonged this fugitive's killing spree.

Of all the egregious failures of the INS, its inability to make use of the most powerful weapons available to law enforcement today -- computerized databases -- probably constitutes the most ominous security breach. IBIS, the Interagency Border Inspection System, which stores information on stolen passports and suspected terrorists and other criminals, supplemented by the INS Central Index System that manages information on aliens who have come to the agency's attention, if updated and routinely consulted, can do much to keep dangerous individuals out of the country. The problem is that despite huge budgetary increases for computerization, the system is frequently "down" and unavailable for updating, and is used inconsistently by inspectors and other personnel who don't understand it -- if they are aware of it at all.

As Malkin demonstrates, once inside the country, aliens have a multitude of avenues to pursue to evade apprehension, all of them used by known terrorists. Whether acting truthfully or fraudulently, an alien can request asylum, change his status from tourist to student, marry a U.S. citizen -- all these legal maneuvers assure prolonged U.S. residence. If worse comes to worse and the alien ends up in immigration court for a deportation hearing, multiple appeals built into the process guarantee further lengthy delay -- given the endemic pro-immigration culture of the court "It Ain't Over 'Til the Alien Wins." That's the final chapter in this exhaustive: review of what passes as our immigration policy, and nicely describes how the game is played: It isn't over until the alien wins -- and the American public loses.

Malkin makes some sensible recommendations for bringing our immigration policy in line with the permanent war on terrorism that is our future. They have been made before, but the brashness of her unapologetic tone is refreshing "Guard the Front Door," "Lock the Back Door," "Militarize the Borders," "Slow Down on Asylum," "Clean House at INS." The changes needed can actually be summarized further: reverse the pace and the priorities of the components of immigration; slow down the intake -- apportion whatever time is needed to find out who we are letting in and to whom we are offering citizenship; and speed up expulsions -- deportable aliens should be quickly deported.

Invasion has several valuable appendices. The first one carefully lists the various means of gaining entry and residency that have been used by identified terrorists. Anther compares alien registration requirements of various countries, including the U.S. Particularly helpful is the "technology primer" that explains the multiplicity of databases available to assist law enforcement agents engaged in the fight against criminals and terrorists. Finally, Malkin leaves the fired-up reader with a listing of web sites to consult to learn more and keep updated. These include advocacy groups, government agencies, research centers, immigration lawyers in search of business, and watchdog organizations.

This book has the potential to influence the course of immigration policy; a creative gift to old policy hands in need of replenishment and to newcomers to the issue in need of arguments and information.

About the author

Gerda Bikales is a member of the advisory board of The Social Contract. Formerly the first executive director of U.S. English, she is currently a member of the board of directors of English Language Advocates (ELA). She writes from her home in North Bethesda, Maryland.

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