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Get Serious: Enforce Intellectual Property Crime Laws Instead of Limiting Immigration to Fight Terror
by Gary Endelman

Gary Endelman practices immigration law at BP America Inc. The opinions expressed in this column are purely personal and do not represent the views or beliefs of BP America Inc. in any way.

Biography Now that America has struck back at the Taliban, the threat of counter-terrorism aimed at the "Great Satan" is more ominous than ever. At such a critical time in the life of the nation, many would deem it unpatriotic to question the wisdom of almost any action taken in the name of combating this menace. The urge to "do something" seems almost overwhelming and is certainly perceived by the political class as being in its manifest self-interest. Yet, it is precisely when freedom is under attack that we must ask if what we do is what should be done. The ability, indeed the obligation, to raise such questions is perhaps the highest form of intellectual courage.

Immigration has become identified with an erosion of national security. Senator Diane Feinstein wants to impose a six month moratorium on student visas. The fact that international students represent less than 2% of all US visas annually, according to 1999 INS statistics, and that most of the alleged September 11th murderers did not enter on F-1 student visas does not seem to matter. Senator Jesse Helms has a draft proposal to suspend the visa waiver program. Senator Christopher Bond wants to implement a more stringent entry-exit control system; he also wants to create a new Office of Visa Control that would, among other things, conduct background checks during a 30 day waiting period before issuance of any visas. Some commentators go so far as to call for a national identity card. The Bush Administration is willing to disclose to foreign governments that one of their nationals, who might still have family back home, has applied for political asylum in the US if such disclosure is necessary to obtain information on suspected terrorism. Fortunately, this provision was deleted in House Judiciary Committee mark-up of the anti-terrorist legislation.

Some of these proposals might help; all of them deserve, and will doubtless receive, a respectful hearing. We cannot say, in good conscience, that they are without any merit. The larger point is that, even if they were to be adopted in their entirety, they would do little to make us safer at home or abroad. Immigration is being made the fall guy for terrorism when, in fact, the truth is that our enemies are using our own institutions against us. Immigration has little to do with that. Consider some of these points that can be found, and have appeared, in newspapers throughout America:

  • One of the World Trade Center hijackers booked his death flight using frequent flyer miles;
  • According to 1995 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, experts from New York's Joint Terrorist Task Force believed that terrorists used profits from counterfeit T-shirt sales to underwrite the 1993 World Trade Center attack;
  • Last year in Paraguay, a naturalized Paraguyan citizen born in Lebanon, Ali Khali Mehri, was prosecuted for channeling millions of dollars in pirated software transactions to the militant Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon that is on a US list for deisgnated terrorist groups;
  • Last December, stories came across the news wire that trademark thiefs in Pakistan were filling orders from Afghanistan to produce T shirts with a fake Nike logo glorifying Osama bin Laden as a holy warrior for Islam;
  • In April, Microsoft officials in London revealed that counterfeiters were using the Internet to sell stolen software and then using their ill-gotten gains to run drugs and finance terror;
  • In 1999, an International Chamber of Commerce official openly admitted that organized crime and terror organizations were selling pirate videos to underwrite their operations. The Irish Republican Army, to cite but one such example, was financing its activities through unauthorized sale of Disney's "Lion King." The very existence of the Internet makes possible an $11 billion trade in pirated software products.
The reality is that the terrorists are using the institutions of post-industrial capitalism to get the money they need to put their hatred into action. If we are serious about fighting global terror, we should vastly intensify inter-governmental and pan-industry cooperation to fight intelletual property crimes. That would make us a safer society and also lubricate the engines of our economic prosperity. Terrorism becomes effective when terrorists have money. Crippling, frustrating, even ending immigration does nothing to dry up the source of terror dollars. Do that and we will finally have a strategy that can make all of us sleep better at night.

About The Author

Gary Endelman practices immigration law at BP America Inc. The opinions expressed in this column are purely personal and do not represent the views or beliefs of BP America Inc. in any way.