The U.S. Congress continues to give contradictory, confusing and no-doubt exasperating signals to the Department of Homeland Security regarding how seriously it should pursue border security. In a political environment in which homeland security has become more of a campaign tactic than a government mission on Capitol Hill, expect no clarity any time soon. (Remember, this is the same Congress that failed to pass any meaningful immigration reform last year.)
DHS Secretary Micheal Chertoff recently announced that the old process along the northern border of merely asserting your citizenship, with no documentation, is no longer good enough in an age of global terrorism.
A news release announcing the new policy stated, “In order to further secure our borders against illegal entry, the U.S. will no longer be able to admit travelers based on nothing more than a person’s oral assertion of citizenship. During October to December 2007 alone, CBP officers reported 1,517 cases of individuals falsely claiming to be U.S. citizens.”
Sound reasonable? Not to many members of Congress, despite the constant howls coming from Capitol Hill for tougher border enforcement. A letter sent by members of Congress to Chertoff went so far as to proclaim that ending the Boyscoutish “honor system” will “violate the intent of Congress.” (Just what is the intent of Congress — to make it easier for the next Mohamed Atta to stroll unquestioned across the border?)
Chuck Schumer of New York offers the best example of the schizophrenic attitude of Congress in a comment to the Washington Post: “Even one illegal crossing is one too many, but Secretary Chertoff ought to at least level with the public in his justifications for turning a policy inside out.”
Schumer’s ire is directed at the fact that DHS claimed that more than 1,500 false claims of citizenship have been made in the past few years. What DHS did not make clear — and should have — was that most of those cases occurred at the southern rather than northern border.
However, Schumer’s complaint was merely a political feint. What is clear is that it is absurd to have, in a post 9-11 world, such a weak and vulnerable security policy that anybody can practically walk across the northern border unquestioned.