On 9/11 at about 3 a.m., I ended my all-night tour of the Arizona-Mexico border. With a retired Border Patrol agent, I had spent the previous evening driving from Sierra Vista along the San Pedro River to the Naco Border Patrol Station.
For hours, we drove in pitch darkness. Along many stretches, not even a single strand of barbed wire divided Mexico from the U.S. Anyone could — and many did— walk into the country unfettered. In the few places that we saw fencing, my guide said that an Arizona rancher trying to keep his livestock from straying had most likely put it up — not the federal government.
At sporadic intervals, a lone border agent driving a van passed us by. What became clear was that the border is essentially unprotected. And what was equally obvious is that, despite arguments to the contrary, more effective border policing — either with additional agents or the military — could be easily accomplished.
Once back at my hotel (ironically full of safety and intelligence experts studying at Ft. Huachuca, a former U.S. Cavalry post and now the U.S. Army Intelligence Training Center), I slept only a few hours before a call woke me with the message to turn on my television.
As a long-standing advocate for less immigration, I thought 9/11 would usher in stricter border controls and more thoughtful legal immigration oversight. And for the few weeks immediately following the attacks, I was right. President George W. Bush ended his amnesty discussions with Mexico's Vicente Fox. Visa applications were no longer automatically approved.
But the well-funded, politically connected forces that lobby for more immigration pressed on as if 9/11 never happened. Even a Center for Immigration Studies study issued six months after 9/11 didn't slow them. The CIS report revealed that the 48 foreign-born terrorists used almost every conceivable immigration tool to carry out their plot: temporary visas, illegal entry, asylum petitions and, for those in the U.S. since 1993, either lawful permanent residency or citizenship.
Before long, Bush returned to his amnesty advocacy, institutions accepted the worthless matricula consular as a valid form of illegal alien identification, and Congress introduced the DREAM for the first of countless times. In 2007, Bush delivered an impassioned speech advocating for more immigration from Tucson, only miles from the border.
As bad as Bush was, President Barack Obama is worse. With Obama's election and his appointment of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, respect for immigration laws (and the Constitution) has vanished. During her three years, Napolitano has criss-crossed the country to do Obama's immigration bidding. Napolitano, a former Arizona governor who should know better, has promoted the DREAM Act and has laughably insisted that the border has never been more secure.
Two weeks ago, Obama's contempt for immigration law hit a new low with his plan to excuse up to 300,000 non-violent illegal aliens currently in deportation proceedings. Given the low profile that the terrorists maintained in 2001, many of them also would have been excused instead of deported as the law required.
Despite the horrors from 10 years ago, the U.S. still has no sound, safe immigration policy. Anyone who sneaks in will probably stay. Those who come legally on non-immigrant visas often don't go home.
Immigration policy, if you can call it that, is about election strategy, not Americans' best interests. In the decade that has passed since 9/11, the country should have learned its lesson about border security's importance. Alas, the opposite is true. Come one, come all.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.