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[Editor's Note: the following is in response to a letter which appeared in the October 23, 2001, issue of Immigration Daily].

Dear Editor:

No, Mr. McVeigh is not an illegal immigrant. Nor are most immigrants, illegal or otherwise, terrorists. But, it is plain stupidity to continue to fail to enforce our immigration laws and to make it easy for people who wish us harm to come here. I am an Arab-American who did her thesis on Muslim immigrants in the US, and I have lived and worked in the Middle East. Believe me, the hatred for the US is evident there. Even Muslim communities here are a source of comfort for terrorists--one of the mosques I dealt with in NJ sheltered the "blind sheikh" during his stay here, prior to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

I do understand that most illegal immigrants don't come for terrorism but for economic reasons. The trick is telling WHICH ONES are here for which reasons. (There's an old maxim in advertising that half of all advertising is wasted--the trick is telling which half.) If someone doesn't go through inspection, we have no way of evaluating his/her motives. And heaven knows, our immigration process, with its "customer service" emphasis, is already lousy at screening LEGAL immigrants. Which is precisely why we need to tighten up our immigration laws and enforcement. It certainly won't keep everyone out who wishes us harm, but even one life saved is worth it (even yours, Mr. Miller). Whether Mr. Condon is able to use SC police to help is a legal and political issue. Do I want state and local police spending their time hunting illegal aliens? No. Nor do I want them to ignore them. Enforcement of the immigration laws is long overdue.

Complicating the issue is that "ethnicity" is a fuzzy concept. Many Arabs and Muslims have immigrated to Latin America (there's been migration to that area from the Middle East since at least WWI) and maintain Muslim or Arab identity. Those "hispanic" immigrants who cross our southern border illegally may well be terrorists from the Arab/Muslim communities in Latin America, or from the Middle East itself, just using Mexico's border to avoid inspection. (Mohammed Atta supposedly was a naturalized Nicaraguan.) Of course, they could always come through Canada (my Lebanese grandmother did this 80 years ago).

Mr. Miller offers an economic argument for illegal immigration. (I also have an MBA and Ph.D. in international business and understand economics--as much as most economists do.) Fine, now industry is laying off these workers by the tens of thousands, largely due to a decline in business because of fears of terrorism. The service workers union (SEIU) alone estimates that roughly a third of their membership (about 100,000 workers) has been laid off--mostly (illegal) immigrants. Does Mr. Miller still argue that illegal immigrants should come/remain? By Mr. Miller's reasoning, illegal immigrants should go when their labor is no longer needed. Of course, the cheap labor argument is specious from the beginning--the labor is cheap only to the companies employing it--and guys like Mr. Miller who want to save literally a penny or two on lettuce. Society as a whole picks up the tab for providing medical care, education, etc. for the working poor, including legal and illegal immigrants. Read a few recent articles about the people who've been laid off, and were just getting by even when they were working. They already need welfare--they couldn't save much when they're earning $6 or $7 an hour and trying to support 3 or 4 kids, as well as sending money back. Mr. Miller's whole argument reeks of creating and maintaining a large low-wage underclass to serve him (I really hope he realizes how racist his arguments sound--perhaps he intended them to sound that way?)--a great basis for social, political and economic instability in any country. In fact, isn't that why most Hispanics want to leave their own countries? In fact, why most immigrants from developing countries (and a few developed) want to leave theirs?

As for Mr. Miller's concern with the children born to illegal immigrants here: There are actually people who come here to give birth just so that they themselves can gain US residency or citizenship. One of my Lebanese students in Dubai (a well-paid professional--hardly in desperate circumstances) arranged for his pregnant wife to travel on a visitor's visa to the US TWICE so that their kids would be born in the US. Should he be able to get US residency (eventually) by pulling this kind of cheat? As far as I'm concerned, people who pull this (including a lot of those illegal immigrants you're so concerned with) are the ones at fault--if they're so concerned about the welfare of their children, they should clear up their immigration status BEFORE they have children. Come to that, it's pretty xenophobic to assume that kids can't/won't have a good life being raised in another country. (Think of the gangs, drugs, violence, pre-marital sex, in our schools) Ultimately, there's nothing "sacred" about being born here--we didn't even make this a basis for citizenship until after the Civil War (to protect the rights of newly freed slaves).