Government Failure On The Immigration Front Line

[Peter Brimelow writes: One of the wonders of the internet is that able writers are constantly presenting themselves by email. In the winter, while I was struggling to finish my boring book on the teacher union, I had a correspondence with David Montoya, accepted this article, and made a mental note that he would be a serious force in the immigration debate. Tragically, before we could post, David Montoya died suddenly of heart failure, leaving a wife and three year-old son. We post now this last service to his art and his country, and will contribute in his memory to the Fund for Ethan Montoya, c/o Temple Israel. 3183 Mecartney Road, Alameda, CA 94502]

By David Montoya

Like most Americans, I always blamed our country`s immigration problems solely on the Immigration and Naturalization Service. After all, the INS is the agency charged with overseeing the nation`s immigration security. However, within a few days of becoming employed as a German/Dutch interpreter at San Francisco International Airport, I discovered that the INS is, in fact, mired down with congressionally mandated regulations and quotas and masses of complicated and unnecessary paperwork. It only has about 12 seconds to determine whether the person standing at America`s gate has legitimate documents, should be admitted into the United States, under what conditions, and for how long.

The agency carries out its important duties in a manner not dissimilar to the Postal Service. When this cumbersome bureaucratic culture merges with the congresses` arbitrarily changing and politically-influenced immigration regulations, visa lotteries, complex visa and visa waiver systems, and TWOV (Transit WithOut Visa) loopholes–all entrusted to federal overtime seekers with little incentive to go the extra mile –it is little wonder the U.S. has problems.

I was always frustrated by the tall tales that people attempting to gain entry to the United States would spin. They would pose as engineers without being able to explain the difference between a valve and a socket. They would show up with six different documents, each emblazoned with a different name. They would claim to be from Liberia and not know who Sgt. Samuel Doe is. There would be airplane loads of Chinese with Honduran and Bolivian passports, often bearing photos with no resemblance to the holder. Salvadorans would claim to be Mexicans, solely to be deported to Mexico and not all the way back to Central America – which would aid them on their next attempt to enter the United States illegally. Of course, they would not know the words to Mexicanos, al grito de guerra – the INS` secret pass/fail weapon for catching OTMs (Other Than Mexicans).

Very early on, I was called upon to translate for a Turkish man who resided in Germany. His nervous and evasive reactions to the questions he was asked raised suspicions. Even though his tourist visa could have allowed him to stay in the United States for up to six months, and could even have been extended for another six months, the INS supervisor told him he could stay for only three weeks – or go back to Germany immediately. He became angry; demanding all of our names and claimed because he was a “Turkish Muslim” he was being singled out for harsh treatment.

Within days I was contacted by an immigration attorney. He threatened me and every INS inspector who had been present. This would be my first of many encounters with immigration attorneys – people who spend their days helping El Salvadorian shoplifters and radical Muslims delay and avoid federally-mandated deportation.

On another day, a young Surinamese man claimed to be a pilot for high ranking government ministers (with no aviation credentials, of course). He subjected me and two INS inspectors to a three-hour Dutch-language song and dance. Then he blurted out “asylum.” With his lying strategy finally exhausted, he had invoked the magic word – one which afforded him an audience with a judge.

However, the law does get enforced – where it`s easy to enforce. I was often called upon to read through young women`s diaries and letters to see if they intended to be employed as domestic and child care help. With all of the serious immigration related breaches of national security I was amazed at the endless efforts the INS employed to catch 19 year Swiss and German nannies. Sometimes three and four inspectors at a time would interrogate a young woman about her cookbooks and letters mentioning children. They would be so proud of themselves when they brought her to tears and got her to admit she was coming to baby-sit.

Certainly, these young women were breaking the law and needed to be deported. But they are far down the list of people causing economic and national security damage. It would be nice if the INS put the same kind of man power behind locating and deporting illegal aliens as they did protecting the jobs of 14 year-old American baby-sitters.

Another frequent immigration security concern: the TWOV passenger, people who would require a visa to enter the United States but do not posses one because they are transiting the United States en route form one country to another. An Iranian passenger en route from Germany to Canada, for example.

When the INS encounters a TWOV, he must be escorted to his outbound flight as a security precaution. Don`t picture an Airborne Ranger with an automatic weapon, though. TWOVs are escorted by the same aged, non-citizen airport personnel who have been handling airport security for the past twenty years. These are the same people who have been deemed unsatisfactory, mandating a federal takeover of airport security.

A near-sighted 70 year old non-citizen is not infrequently the only thing standing between the U.S. and an alien requiring an escort out of the country.

While I was working with them, INS inspectors complained constantly about the lack of coordination between the Justice Department, their overseer, and the State Department, which issues visas at overseas embassies and consulates. The inspectors feel their mission is too complex – divided between arrival inspections, law enforcement duties shared with the border patrol and customs, and the almost-unrelated but major obligation to provide the public with immigration information and move the mountains of paperwork required to process all manner of temporary and permanent immigrants and deport those deemed as unacceptable for entry. They see the Congress and administration as political players, who have little interest in the consequences of mass legal and illegal immigration.

Throughout my six years with the INS, I experienced lying, fraudulent document scams, aggressive immigration attorneys, and hopelessly frustrated, jaded, and cynical INS agents. It was a sobering, and often, distressing experience.

The average U.S. citizen should spend just one day watching the endless lines of asylum abusers, the cumbersome bureaucratic incompetence, and the politically mandated blind mass paroling of never-to-be-seen again aliens.

He would know then that the last thing that any INS agent has time to think about is protecting the country from the problem of illegal immigration.

November 12, 2002