Think tanks wrap-up II

Feb. 18, 2003 at 3:55 PM   |   0 comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the second of three wrap-ups for Feb. 18.


The Reason Foundation

LOS ANGELES -- Guilty by association: Note to conservatives -- most immigrants aren't terrorists

By Cathy Young

Shortly after two men were arrested in last October's sniper shootings, ending a crime spree that had terrorized the Washington-Baltimore area and left 10 people dead, a detail emerged that galvanized a large segment of the American punditry.

One of the suspects, 17-year-old John Lee Malvo, was an illegal alien -- a Jamaican who had entered Florida as a stowaway. Moreover, in December 2001, the U.S. Border Patrol had taken him and his mother into custody. A month later, despite their admission that they were here illegally, the Seattle office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service released them on bond instead of deporting them.

Writing in the National Review, the syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin -- author of the book "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" (Regnery Gateway, 2002), and the first to break the story of Malvo's brush with the INS -- charged that such "catch and release" decisions have "cost scores of American lives," now including the victims of the snipers.

Pat Buchanan put it even more bluntly on Fox News: "Whoever turned him loose in the INS has got blood on his hands."

Never mind that, at the time of Malvo's detention, no one could have predicted that he would engage in homicidal violence. True, he lived in a homeless shelter with his Svengali-like "stepfather," John Allen Muhammad. But he was a clean-cut boy who attended school and had never been in trouble with the law. Blaming the INS for the sniper deaths makes no more sense than blaming a highway patrol officer who lets a motorist with an expired car registration get back behind the wheel if, 5 miles down the road, that motorist holds up a convenience store and kills the salesclerk.

Never mind, too, that while Malvo may have been the actual triggerman in most of the shootings, the U.S.-born Muhammad was clearly the mastermind. There is little doubt that Malvo, who apparently had a troubled relationship with his mother, wanted only to please the surrogate father he idolized.

"There is a large pool of messed-up teenagers in the United States," points out Daniel Griswold, a trade and immigration analyst at the Cato Institute. "John Muhammad did not need to recruit an illegal immigrant to do what he did."

One could easily turn around and argue that the shootings could have been prevented if Malvo's mother, Uma James, had been free to seek the authorities' help in extricating her son from Muhammad's clutches. (In fact, it was her attempt to do so that led to the pair's arrest by the Border Patrol.)

Alas, the attempt to exploit Malvo's crime to advance an anti-immigrant agenda is all too typical of many conservatives' rhetoric on immigration and terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

It's understandable, of course, that a terrorist act committed by foreign nationals should raise concerns about national security and border control. But that doesn't mean the problem of terrorism should be conflated with that of illegal immigration.

The 19 hijackers who struck on Sept. 11 all entered the United States legally as tourists or business travelers, although three of them had overstayed their visas. At the same time, not one of the millions of illegals who cross the border from Mexico or get smuggled in on cargo vessels from China has been implicated in terrorism. The most Malkin can muster for a terrorist connection is that two illegal immigrants, along with one legal permanent resident from El Salvador, helped four of the hijackers get the phony driver's licenses they used to get on the airplanes.

"It's true that the system is broken," says Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "But the people who are exploiting these legitimate fears to cut back on immigration are going in the wrong direction. It sounds logical at first, but it's not realistic, it's not going to be enforceable, and ultimately it's not going to give us better security."

Indeed, a wholesale crackdown on illegal immigration could, by consuming scarce resources, hinder rather than help the effort to keep potential terrorists out of this country. "By some estimates," says Griswold, "we spend $3 billion a year trying to keep Mexican workers out of the United States. I'd much rather spend that money trying to keep out Middle Eastern terrorists."

Given the realities of the global economy and the U.S. labor market, the flow of migrants into this country will be a fact for the foreseeable future. Making legal entry easier for people who want to better their lot in life is a much more feasible solution than making entry "a fiercely guarded privilege," as Malkin suggests in "Invasion." It is also, of course, far more feasible than the fantasy of deporting the 9 million to 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here.

Besides freeing up resources to target terrorists, such legalization would severely diminish the document fraud and smuggling that can in fact assist terrorists. An amnesty for illegal immigrants would bring people out of the shadows in which terror cells can lurk and make it safe for people with useful information about possible terrorists to cooperate with law enforcement. (Oddly, for all her concern about threats to national security, Malkin deplores Attorney General John Ashcroft's offer to grant U.S. citizenship to any alien, legal or illegal, who comes forward with tips that aid the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks.)

Immigration hard-liners lament that businesses and local politicians oppose tough measures against illegal aliens, but they rarely stop to wonder if there are good reasons for this opposition.

"Polls show that the public opinion is squeamish about immigration," says Jacoby, "but people are squeamish in the abstract. When it comes to their own lives and their local economy, they're not so squeamish."

None of this is to say that we shouldn't try to weed out potential terrorists who come to our shores, or that political correctness never gets in the way of border control. Both Griswold and Jacoby favor targeted scrutiny of immigrants and visitors from countries with special links to terrorism -- including the new Justice Department rules requiring visa holders from 20 countries, nearly all of them Arab or Muslim, to register with the INS.

Such profiling may smack of ethnic and religious prejudice, but unfortunately it also reflects reality. Forty-five of the 48 foreigners known to have committed or plotted terrorist acts in the United States since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 have been Middle Eastern Arabs.

Even so, profiling should be tempered with discretion. In December 2002 about 400 men who showed up for registration in Southern California were arrested for minor violations of immigration law. Many of these violations were unintended, due to slow INS paperwork on their applications for permanent residency or visa extensions.

All but 20 (whose names showed up in law enforcement records) were released within three days -- but not until after considerable humiliation and discomfort. Such measures can only make aliens less likely to cooperate with the authorities.

It may be a cliché to say that radically altering our life in response to terrorism means letting the terrorists win. But it's also true, perhaps especially with regard to immigration -- and not just because fully implementing the anti-immigrant agenda would cause our economy to collapse.

The openness, freedom, and plenitude that lead radical Islamists to hate America are precisely what draw so many people from around the world to live here. Among them, do not forget, were the hundreds of foreign nationals who were among those killed in the World Trade Center.

(Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and the author of "Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality.")


The Cato Institute

WASHINGTON -- Don't militarize the borders

by Gene Healy

The U.S. military is the most effective fighting force in history -- so effective, in fact, that politicians and pundits have come to see it as a panacea for every security problem posed by the terrorist threat. But on the home front there are many tasks for which the military is ill suited and where its deployment would be ineffective and dangerous.

Nowhere is that clearer than with the growing calls to militarize our borders. Politicians like Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and conservative pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Michelle Malkin want armed soldiers to enforce U.S. immigration law.

In her new bestseller "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores," Malkin writes that "at the northern border with Canada ... every rubber orange cone and measly 'No Entry' sign should immediately be replaced with an armed National Guardsman." She suggests that something in the neighborhood of 100,000 troops might be appropriate.

The problem with this idea is that the same training that makes U.S. soldiers outstanding warriors makes them extremely dangerous as cops. Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, put it succinctly: The military "is trained to vaporize, not Mirandize."

No one knows this better than the military establishment, which is why the Pentagon has consistently resisted calls to station troops on our borders, most recently in the spring of last year, when Congress pushed for border militarization. Pentagon officials raised the possibility of an "unlawful and potentially lethal use of force incident" if the troops were armed.

Ultimately, some 1,600 National Guardsmen were placed at the Mexican and Canadian borders for a six-month mission, most of them unarmed. A Pentagon official told United Press International, "We don't like to do these things. We do them as a matter of last resort. That's why we entered into this undertaking with a specific end date and a specific requirement."

The Pentagon was right to worry. U.S. troops have been placed on the borders in the past, as part of the quixotic fight against drug smuggling. Even though those deployments have been limited to surveillance and support roles, they've led to tragedy. In 1997, a Marine anti-drug patrol shot and killed 18-year-old high school student Esquiel Hernandez, who was carrying a .22 caliber rifle while tending goats on his own farm in Redford, Texas, near the Mexican border. The Justice Department paid out $1.9 million to the Hernandez family as settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Hernandez incident should be a cautionary tale for those who seek to militarize our borders. An internal Pentagon investigation of the incident noted that the soldiers were ill prepared for contact with civilians, as their military training instilled "an aggressive spirit while teaching basic combat skills."

Because of the restrictions imposed by the Posse Comitatus Act, the federal law that proscribes the military from "executing the laws," the Marines who killed Hernandez operated under rules of engagement that prevented them from arresting or otherwise directly engaging civilians. Nonetheless, according to a senior FBI agent involved with the case, "The Marines perceived a target-practicing shot as a threat to their safety ... From that point, their training and instincts took over to neutralize a threat."

The camouflaged Marines tailed Hernandez for 20 minutes, and failed to identify themselves or try to defuse the situation. When Hernandez raised his rifle again, a Marine shot him, and let him bleed to death without attempting to administer first aid.

The new proposals to use troops for border patrol work would greatly multiply the dangers revealed by the Hernandez incident. Unlike the soldiers deployed for the drug war, the troops on border patrol duty would be given arrest authority and allowed to directly engage civilians. The danger to civilians wouldn't be limited to border areas either, given that federal law allows the Border Patrol to set up checkpoints as far as 100 miles inland from the border or shoreline.

Having the military enforce the immigration laws isn't wise, it isn't necessary, and it's not legal. Both the INS and the Border Patrol are getting a half a billion-dollar infusion of new resources, and rapidly hiring new agents. If still more border patrol personnel are needed, they should be hired. But border security can be provided without eroding America's tradition of civil-military separation.

(Gene Healy is senior editor at the Cato Institute.)


The National Center for Policy Analysis

(NCPA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization whose goal is to develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector.)

DALLAS, Texas -- The time has come for a "pro-patient" approach to healthcare

Medicaid is enormously expensive. For the second year in a row, spending on Medicaid (for the poor) will exceed spending on Medicare (for the elderly). At $280 billion this year, Medicaid costs almost $1,000 for every man, woman and child in the country -- or $4,000 for a family of four. Indeed, it is likely that many taxpayers are paying more in taxes to fund health insurance for the poor than they pay for private health insurance for themselves and their own families.

Why are Medicaid costs rising so rapidly? Part of the problem is that most states have not taken advantage of cost-control techniques widely used in the private sector. For example:

-- Because Texas' method of paying for hospital care is largely cost-based, Medicaid pays some Dallas hospitals three times as much as other hospitals for the same services.

-- Because Ohio's method of paying for nursing home care is essentially cost-based, the state is paying for 13,000 empty beds.

The time has come for a "pro-patient" approach to healthcare. The following are some elements of that approach:

-- Convert Medicaid into a defined-contribution system, under which the state determines how much it is willing to spend and patients (along with their doctors) choose how to spend it.

-- Provide Medicaid enrollees with access to private sector plans, including the plans of their employers.

-- Change Medicaid to private, portable insurance -- where enrollment continues even after eligibility for Medicaid has lapsed.

Out-of-control increases in Medicaid costs are not inevitable. But if reforms are not made soon, the question in a few years will be: Why didn't policy-makers take control of our destiny when they had the chance?

(From by Reforming Medicaid, Policy Report No. 257, by Michael Bond, John C. Goodman, Ronald Lindsey and Richard Teske Feb. 2003, National Center for Policy Analysis.)

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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