WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The journalist who helped Americans make sense of the arrests of the Washington sniper suspects last week was not a hard news reporter but a syndicated columnist whose first book is subtitled "How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores."
Michelle Malkin was out front with the information that John Lee Malvo, 17 -- arrested Thursday morning with John Muhammad, 41, on suspicion of engaging in a three-week shooting spree that killed 10 people and wounded three -- is an illegal alien from Jamaica who jumped ship in Miami and ended up in Washington state.
In her Oct. 25 column titled "Who Let Lee Malvo Loose?" Malkin, citing law enforcement sources, reported that the Border Patrol arrested Malvo in Bellingham, Wash., on Dec. 19, 2001. Malvo's mother, Uma Sceon James, admitted that six months earlier she and her son had stowed away on a cargo ship with other illegals. The arresting officer noted that the pair would be detained in Seattle pending deportation charges.
But about a month later, in accordance with what Malkin (borrowing a phrase from sport fishing) calls a catch-and-release-policy, the Immigration and Naturalization Service set mother and son free. Malkin speculates that the motivation of the INS was to avoid the costs associated with detention and deportation.
In an interview, Malkin said a number of questions need to be answered. One is "disentangling" who made the decision to set the bond that resulted in the release of James and Malvo.
Her understanding is that bond can be set for illegal aliens in two ways: either through a deportation officer in an INS district office, or through the immigration court system. She doesn't know which method was used or the rationale for ignoring the explicit concern of the Border Patrol that James and Malvo would be "likely to abscond."
A federal law enforcement official confirmed the arrest but told United Press International that federal officials, as they investigate, have sealed all records relating to why James and Malvo were released. An INS spokesperson refused to comment on the matter.
Malkin was asked about the possibility that in the post-Sept. 11, atmosphere, the INS was not too worried about Jamaicans.
"This apprehension occurred near the U.S.-Canadian border," she replied. "Many Muslim extremist groups in Canada have a lot of Caribbeans in them -- for example, Black Muslims -- and they've engaged in a lot of criminal activity. So it really doesn't make sense to say that we're going to concentrate on the (Middle Eastern) terrorists.
"The second thing I would say is, we have no idea who we're letting loose with this catch-and-release policy, which essentially is what our deportation system has come down to. If you don't know the criminal background of illegal aliens in their native countries, they could be terrorists, they could be 'harmless,' but the fact that we don't know is reason enough to listen to a Border Patrol agent when he warns that somebody might be a flight risk.
"And, of course, the level of scrutiny ought to be already raised when they're talking about people whose first act on our soil is to break the law, and to do it in as surreptitious a way as Lee Malvo and his mother did -- sneaking onto a ship, walking off and somehow finding themselves across the country without any known address, without any identification, without any means of support."
Malkin said the INS is having a "legal semantic quibble" about the stowaway status that the Border Patrol assigned to James and Malvo. "The INS said, technically, they're not stowaways -- even though these two told the Border Patrol agent they were. If you are a stowaway, of course, you're not supposed to be subject to a bond hearing, for one thing. You're supposed to be detained until your deportation process comes up. But the INS is saying that they were reclassified by someone in the Seattle District because the Border Patrol agent had made a mistake."
And what made her decide to write the book "Invasion"?
"Sept. 11, 2001 was the galvanizing event for me," she said. "But I've been writing about immigration policy for more than a decade. I started my newspaper journalism career in Los Angeles, where you simply cannot avoid the overwhelming and massively negative consequences of unrestricted, uncontrolled immigration.
"There's a personal aspect of it as well," Malkin added. "My parents came here as legal immigrants from the Philippines, and we appreciate the blessings that this country has afforded us. I want to make sure that everything is done to protect that legacy, which is one of welcoming people who are coming here to live the American dream and not to destroy it."
Critics of current immigration policy are often told that the situation today is not that different from when their own ancestors came to the United States. How would Malkin answer those who say: Now that you've made it, you want to pull up the ladder?
"Nonsense," she replied. "It's a total mischaracterization of my position, for one thing, to say that I want to pull up the ladder and shut the doors completely. I'm saying we need better guarded doors to make sure we're not granting hundreds of thousands of visas to people who are tied to al Qaida. And, of course, we did not have al Qaida a couple of generations ago. We need to deal with 21st century realities and a post-Sept. 11 environment, when we're at war with terror. And you cannot have open borders and win a war on terror at the same time.
"The second thing I would say is, I think that kind of argument just totally misses the point. We have a huge problem with massive amounts of illegal immigration. People are coming here who are not interested in embracing our principles and institutions and who are undermining the common culture. We can't tolerate that. We can't simply give away the store and give up on the very noble goal of assimilation, for one thing, and protecting national security and national sovereignty on the other."
Malkin was asked what she would say to Canadians who reject the "melting pot" as an archaic and discredited American ideal. "We have a beautiful 'mosaic,'" some Canadians say. "Melting pot assimilation is atavistic thinking."
The columnist was unimpressed with this line of reasoning.
"Of course, in the context of a war on terror, Canada's mosaic has been a disaster," she said. "If you talk to almost any law enforcement officer along the border, and people in the interior, you'll hear that because of its extremely lax -- if not non-existent -- policing of asylum policies, you've got essentially a terrorist welcome mat in Canada for terrorist cells from around the world. This is not just bin Laden's organization. And this is a huge peril to us because you're talking about thousands of miles of unguarded border. And we know that al Qaida operatives have attempted several times to penetrate our borders from the north."
In December 1999, a U.S. Customs agent intercepted Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who had trained with al Qaida in Afghanistan. Ressam had taken a ferry from British Columbia to Port Angeles, Wash. The trunk of Ressam's car was filled with explosives. He was tried and convicted and admitted his plan to blow up Los Angeles International Airport as part of a millennium terrorist plot.
Malkin has focused on national security aspects of immigration because several "brilliant" and "authoritative" books have addressed larger questions. She cited Peter Brimelow, author of "Alien Nation"; Patrick J. Buchanan, author "The Death of the West"; and George Borjas, author of "Heaven's Door."
She said her chapter "The Deportation Abyss" could have been ignored if not for the sniper angle.
"People don't want to delve into this. Of the many failures of the immigration system, this is probably among the worst, because we have people who we know don't belong here and yet we are utterly incapable of tracking them down, detaining them to protect the American people, and then kicking them out and keeping them out.
"We've got this crazy legal system filled with conflicting statutes, selective enforcement, and basically ruled by obstructionist immigration lawyers whose main goal is to protect criminal alien rights, not to protect our borders."
In that chapter, she wrote of illegal aliens who were "baby-killers, burglars, habitual drunk drivers, and accessories to child rape" as examples of the catch-and-release policy.
"Which is what this Malvo case is about," she told UPI. "People cycle through the system -- we know they're illegal aliens -- and because there's not enough detention space to keep them, we simply let them loose on the public. We trust them, first of all, to come back for their deportation proceedings, but also -- misguidedly enough -- entrusting them not to do things such as what Lee Malvo has been accused of doing."