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The Border Problem

The population of the United States has surpassed 300 million people, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics of 2007. The official poverty rate for the same year was 12.5%, which corresponds to over 37 million Americans (Project America, 2007). However, living in poverty in the United States cannot be compared to the deep poverty in developing nations. This disparity makes the United States a magnet for illegal immigrants to cross our borders seeking better opportunities, even if they live under American poverty standards.

Our nation's two borders have always been a playground for illegal immigrants. Without a doubt, the southern border with Mexico has been making headlines. Not all illegal immigrants who enter the United States through the southern border are from Mexico. There is evidence that Middle Eastern immigrants have used this route to gain entry to the United States. The security of the border depends on both countries to defend their interests. Mexico has accused the United States of targeting Mexicans with harsher enforcement of immigration laws and stronger and more difficult fences. However, the southern nation has not done enough to secure its southern borders against illegal immigration (Skinner, 2006).

The problem of border control lies in the hands of The U.S. Border Patrol. Is the United States safer by building a fence along the U.S./Mexico line, and by executing an operational control of 44% of the entire borderline? Probably not. Is the United States safe by providing airtight control to 15% of the borderline only? Probably not (Bedard, 2011). The problem is not only illegal immigration, but also the traffic of illegal drugs and the continuous bloody confrontations between rival drug cartels in their ambition for controlling the border market. Before policies are made, the terrain has to be demarked. A football team cannot play and strategize a game if the boundaries of the field are not properly marked. Once the field is clearly marked, then the proper rules of the game can be followed and enforced, as well as preparing a good strategy to win the game. Drug trafficking counterattacks and strategies are useless if the borders are partially guarded, and the lack of surveillance only results in an uncontrollable flow of illegal immigrants and drug traffickers into the United States. A little over 870 miles are under the operational control of the Border Patrol. The coverage is only 44% of the entire borderline. However, just 129 miles are under full control, the rest under managed status, which is the equivalent to random checks at other critical points of entry. This leaves the critical and sad reality of 15% of the border under full control.

In Yuma, Arizona, the border is locked down as it should be, making it an almost impossible free pass to the country. The number of Border Patrol agents went from 10,000 agents in 2005 to 17,000 in 2011. In 2010, Border Patrol agents caught 445,000 illegal persons and seized over 2.4 million pounds of marijuana that never made it to the American streets (Bedard, 2011). The unsecured border is also an invitation to terrorist cells to infiltrate the American territory with little or no difficulty, which increases the potential for more danger to the nation.

The Infiltration of Terrorists

It is very important to understand how human smuggling networks operate in Mexico. There are groups that specialize in smuggling individuals from countries associated with terrorism for high fees, due to the tremendous amount of risk and consequences the smugglers are exposed to. This is not the business of regular smugglers, but trained and experienced people who may also have a criminal record and find this challenging opportunity a profitable one. The well-known "coyotes" are experts in long-range surveillance and road marches during nighttime, and they are the scouts that take groups of people across the border without detection by the U.S. authorities. This activity has become a serious business; only those who can afford the high prices risk the no-guarantee journey. These groups, as well as regular human smuggling organizations, often use the same routes to and across the border that drug traffickers use. Because of the high profits, the cartels, more formally known as transnational criminal organizations, own the "rights" to smuggle people since they know all activity that occurs along these routes, taking the cartels to a different battle level among them in their ambition to monopolize the business.

In 1993, little or no attention was given to the message sent during the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, a 25-year-old citizen of Iraq, entered the United States through JFK International Airport (Mylroie, 1995). Yousef is the son of a Pakistani mother and a Palestinian father who grew up in a working class suburb in Kuwait and trained in one of Osama bin Laden's guerrilla camps. His first exposure to real confrontation was when he joined the terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. He was one step ahead of the U.S. authorities in that he was aware of the flexibility and vulnerabilities of the American system. He was granted political asylum (IPT, 2008).

Although Yousef did not enter through any border, he knew the system would allow him to stay under political asylum. However, this circumstance contributed to the immigration-flow disaster during those years that, little by little, has been threatening peace and sovereignty in the United States.

Yousef not only masterminded the first terrorist attack. He was also able to watch from the Brooklyn Bridge as his almost successful plan to take down the entire World Trade Center unfolded. Tremendous damage was done, and panic was imminent. Eight years later, 19 Middle Eastern terrorists closed the chapter to shut down Wall Street and its surroundings after the events of September 11, 2001, which changed the course of the United States and the future of terrorism in the world.

As with many other crises, the nation took remedial action after the damage was done. The initial countermeasures were the creation of the 9/11 Commission to investigate the terrorist attacks, and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which simply put several organizations under the same umbrella. Agencies began to share intelligence to alert each other of terrorist threats. Authorities stepped up security in all ports of entry to the nation, especially the airports under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). New regulations and laws, such as the USA Patriot Act, put America under the microscope of its own government.

We have done a lot since then, and we have progressively identified and stopped future terrorist plots from inside the country and from the outside, with the cooperation of other nations that stuck with the United States in the war on terror. However, we emphasized airports too much and forgot about our borders, a more complex area and a very dangerous one. At the airports we are able to know in advance of a flight coming to our territory as well as the origin of the flight, and we have access to the roster of passengers in order to take preventive measures upon arrival, or at least to create an airtight control if necessary. At the borders, there is no control whatsoever, and as illegal immigrants use the 56% area of unguarded territory to enter the country, terrorists also use it. We remain blindfolded and hesitant to declare failure in our control for national security. Over 10 years have passed since the 9/11 attacks. Saddam Hussein is dead, Osama bin Laden was eliminated, and Muammar Qadafi was executed by the rebels. This is a triumph for the world, but not the end of the war. The war on terror continues, and different tactics will be utilized. Forces have shifted to other regions, training will be intensified, and the hatred for the Western hemisphere and its allies will remain alive.

Experts on the Middle East are warning Americans that the wave of Middle Eastern immigrants entering the country could soon become a tsunami, flooding the streets of our communities, our classrooms, and our corporations. Terrorist intelligence cells have already figured out the vulnerabilities of our borders in both Canada and Mexico. However, it is better to ally with "coyotes" from Mexico who do anything for money than to try to get in through the northern border. Experts on the Middle East have also warned us of this point of entry. In the United States there are still entities under the nonprofit organization umbrella collecting donations to support terrorist organizations around the world.

Adnan Shukrijumah, an important al-Qaeda operations member, according to U.S. intelligence officials, was suspected of hatching a plot to smuggle a dirty bomb or materials to manufacture one across the U.S./Mexico border. Fortunately, there is no indication that Shukrijumah's purported dirty-bomb plot ever got very far (Longmire, 2011). With America's inefficient and halfway-tough immigration laws, we are simply placing the red carpet for terrorists, exposing nothing but the safety of our own citizens. We still refuse to see and learn the lessons of an uncontrollable immigration that has brought several European nations to their knees. Are we waking up anytime soon?

In July 2010, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported that a Hezbollah terrorist organization employed Mexican nationals with ties to Lebanon to set up a strong network to target Israel and the United States. Also in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security issued an intelligence alert regarding a possible border-crossing attempt by a Somali named Mohamed Ali, who is a member of Al-Shabaab, a Somali-based al-Qaeda ally with links to the deadly attack on American soldiers in the notorious "Black Hawk Down" incident in the Somali capital.

U.S. Representative Sue Myrick, R-NC, asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for more information on Hezbollah's presence along the U.S./Mexico border and requested an intensive intelligence operation to identify and evaluate the network's presence and any possible connections with drug cartels. In addition to this inquiry, something very unusual was noticed in the southwestern states' prisons. Several gang members started to display tattoos written in Farsi. Typically, the Congresswoman said, seeing tattoos in Arabic is not too out of the ordinary, but Farsi should merit a little more attention for possible links to Iran and its army of Hezbollah terrorists. The problem is that tattoos in Farsi have also been seen on drug cartel individuals in Mexico. It is obvious that there is an influence somewhere to a certain degree, a degree we must not underestimate. Unlike immigrants that come from Central or South America, Middle Eastern individuals are used to the roughness of the terrain, and they are very skilled in the construction of tunnels. They can build incredible tunnels, as they do at the Israeli borders. The combination of terrorist organizations and drug cartels gives a new meaning to the threat against America: narcoterrorism.

The Union Makes the Force

Are we ready to confront not one but two forces that individually have proven to overcome our reactions and attitude towards them as a problem? Are we ready to compromise our political relations with Mexico if no support and adherence to the fight against drugs and terrorism is obtained?

In 1983, this author was a member of the Peruvian Police force and a dedicated member of the Sinchis, a specialized counterterrorism and counternarcotics elite team that fought against the forces of the terrorist organizations Shining Path and MRTA (Movimiento Revolucionario Tùpac Amaru), as well as drug traffickers. It was around that year when the term narco-terrorism was introduced, not only as a concept but also for a new type of training for Sinchis. The term, introduced to Peruvian Congress by President Fernando Belaunde Terry, alerted not only the law enforcement paramilitary team of Sinchis but also specialized teams from the army and navy. Two monsters, two destructive forces, two different agendas, and one modus operandi in common: war.

Terrorism has grown globally at a rapid speed, and Islamic radicalism has been the major force that contributed to this worldwide threat. Terrorism is a monster of many hands that operates with international capabilities by feeding satellites abroad against the same goals: war against all infidels, destruction of Western ideology and its people, and the complete eradication of Israel and Jews from the face of the earth. Narco-traffic is a multibillion-dollar business worldwide with enough powers to seduce people, politicians, military personnel, government key personnel, and anybody who is exposed to its multiple hands as well. Like terrorism, powerful international drug cartels also feed satellites abroad as part of their secret organization where money is the creed. Both monsters have different agendas: one is socio-political-religious and the other one is simply money. This was the starting point for the use of the term "narco-terrorism" in 1983. However, the term differs a little bit in how it is used now. The terrorist organization Shining Path had political reasons in its agenda to fight against the democratic government. Their members had the armament power, knowledge of survival and rescue, paramilitary training, and thousands of members ready and committed to die for their cause. The powerful drug cartels had the money and an irresistible cause: greed. Then the creation of a more powerful force was born. The terrorists needed more money to buy armament and explosive devices as well as financial sources to support hundreds of cells around the national territory. The drug cartels needed protection in their coca fields, distribution centers, and illegal airfields in the deep places of the country and jungle regions. The homegrown terrorist organization with chauvinistic roots had no external support from any other terrorist organization; it was merely a Peruvian natural-born chaos. The resources were limited. Some type of support was obtained with armament and members from the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, and in the 1990s there were some military operations that revealed ties with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARCs). But this was not enough. On some occasions, news reports revealed the possible infiltration of terrorists from Abu Nidal to negotiate for armament. It was the perfect exchange of money for protection, and both forces helped each other. This was the start of narco-terrorism. Each force was good at what they did—terrorist acts and drug smuggling, production, and export. They both needed each other to survive, and they both shared a philosophy written with blood in their own separate creeds: war. The concept of war is utilized to describe the confrontations they experienced with the military and special operation teams from the naval and police forces. If something went wrong or did not represent the best interest of their cause, the prompt elimination of their own people never was a matter of discussion. It simply happened. The union made the force, and along with it, the 1980s and 1990s were the most crucial decades of narco-terrorism the Peruvian has yet to experience. The streets of Lebanon or Lima were the epicenters for many confrontations from dawn to dusk. In the remote villages in the Andean region, terrorist cells were providing protection to several airfields used by drug lords; the terrorists were on the lords' payrolls, and one hand washed the other. The armament was coming from several parts of the world, but mainly from the Colombian black market. There were AK-47s from Iran, Kalashnikovs from Russia, Stars from Spain, Fusil Automatique Léger (FALs) from Belgium, and several other explosive devices and materials. Terrorists were prepared to organize their own subversive propaganda, and they were invisible during the dissemination process of the same. Their voices were heard all the way to the most unknown corners of each region due to propaganda. Most of the women involved with Shining Path were spouses of leaders breaking the tradition of Machismo-Leninism (Splintered Sunrise, 2008). Many airfields, after detection from the defense forces, were kept intact due to the successful confrontation of terrorists against the defense forces. Terrorists also helped in the construction of many airfields as they mastered the land, dealt with inclement weather, and had no other objective but to fight for the destitution of the democratic government in exchange for a socialist-communist brand.

In recent years, narco-terrorism has become a growing threat that has received attention from different countries around the world. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defines narco-terrorism as the "participation of groups or associated individuals in taxing, providing security for, or otherwise aiding and abetting drug trafficking endeavors in an effort to further, or fund, terrorist activities." As globalization has allowed for the interconnectivity of world markets, it has also allowed for global trade in the illicit market. Mexico is not the exception to this advantage that has allowed cartels to smuggle drugs to American streets, which consequently contributes to the increase of arrests for drug-related matters, making a high percentage of American prison inmates drug-related cases. Are there any possibilities for ties between Mexican drug cartels and elements from Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, or Hamas to create a powerful force against the sovereignty of the United States? There have been warnings for years that Hezbollah had partnered with Mexican drug cartels. Michael Braun, a former DEA chief of operations, reported that Hezbollah utilizes the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers, and transportation experts as the drug cartels (Mauro, 2011).

There are 1.57 billion Muslims living in the world, distributed over all continents. More than 300 million Muslims, about one-fifth, live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion. Of the total Muslim population, 12% are Shia Muslims and 88% are Sunni Muslims. By 2009, the Muslim population in North, Central, and South America reached 4.6 million. In North America, 2.5 million Muslims live in the United States, 110,000 live in Mexico, and 657,000 live in Canada (Pew Research Center, 2009).

Feeding the Cub

Between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, the Muslim population reaches over 3.2 million. From the north to the south, it represents the vertebral column of a religious force in North America. At no time does this writer discredit the benefits or enrichments of Islam as a religion. This presentation reveals only the potential for radicalism, which is in fact formed by those who take the rich religion of Islam to a different level, which is unacceptable to the majority of Muslims who believe in peace and harmony. Islam deserves the same respect other religions also deserve.

Alerts for radicalization in Canada and Mexico should be the main focus of observation, concentration, and analysis by the American intelligence community. Stronger immigration laws are imperative, the closure and monitoring of borders is not a matter of discussion, and the immediate stoppage of granting political asylum to anybody in tears must be microscopically analyzed.

Mexico may be experiencing a monotheistic revolution, or it should be close to it. Mexicans are embracing Islam by the thousands, leaving the old scriptures of Catholicism for their own choices, not imposed. The capital already has two mosques, and many major cities are already the center of attention for religious heads looking for conversion at the speed of the light. It is believed that Syrians and Turks brought some of the seeds of Islam (Al-Nasr, 2011). In Mexico, as in most South American countries, Indian communities are the forgotten people of their own governments; they are condemned to live in shantytowns, away from the Mestizo or white population. They have no education and live under poor conditions without opportunities or aspirations of any kind. Most of them practice Catholicism as an imposed religion. Muslim envoys targeted these communities as the saviors to their needs with a clever approach. The teachings of the Quran open their eyes to a new horizon, and they see no discriminatory parameters among Muslims. If you are a Muslim, you are welcome to the Muslim world. Close to 300 Tzozil Indians converted to Islam, something that put the government of former president Vicente Fox under alert (Glusing, 2005). Leaders of Shining Path had the responsibility of assigning a committee on education purposes to disseminate Marxist-Leninist ideology scrambled with Maoist philosophy to entire villages, and they forced their members to adapt to their principles and to think and act against the government. They distributed food and water and set up improvised classrooms to train under-age people and enlist them in the cause.

A 2006 Congressional report on border threats titled "A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border" was prepared by the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Investigations. The report indicated that 1.2 million illegal aliens were apprehended in 2005 alone. From those arrestees, 165,000 were classified as OTM (Other than Mexicans) and 65,000 of these were from "special interest countries," which it is defined as nations that could export individuals that could bring harm to our sovereignty in the way of terrorism (World Net Daily, 2010). Amazingly, these illegal immigrants came from Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The ground has been tested, the seeds have been planted, the fruits start to have some flavor, and eventually the roots will be as strong as they are in Canada and inside American territory. The threat of illegal immigration cannot be underestimated: it is still a threat.

In January 2011, Border Patrol agents found a copy of the book In Memory of Our Martyrs, published by Iran's Ministry of Islamic Guidance, which raised concerns of the possible entry of Islamist suicide bombers from Iran into the United States through the southern border. Customs and Border Protection statistics show that from 1999 through 2010, 329 Iranian nationals were apprehended by the Border Patrol. The threat is imminent, but not all Americans are aware of it (Kimery, 2011).

U.S. officials dismantled a plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States after an informant revealed that terrorists from the Middle East were willing to pay $1.5 million to a Mexican drug cartel to take care of business. FBI Director Robert Mueller said that it could have cost many lives (Miller, 2011).

Possible Solutions:
  • • A secure, state-of-the-art border fence must be considered throughout the entire length of the southern border. Similar fences in Israel along the Egyptian border have decreased to a minimum the flow of illegal African immigrants (World News, 2011).
  • • A sophisticated radar system along the border to alert Border Patrol agents of potential crossings before immigrants reach the fence.
  • • Arresting illegal immigrants and cutting off social welfare programs to them.
  • • Implementation and enforcement of tough economic sanctions to businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

Al-Nasr, M. (2011). Mexico discovers Islam: A new generation of Muslims is introducing Islam to Mexicans. Islamic Population Worldwide. Retrieved from: http://www.islamicpopulation.com

Bedard, P. (2011, February 16). Politics, Border Patrol controls just 44 percent of South. U.S. News & World Report, retrieved from: http://www.usnews.com

Glusing, J. (2005) Globalization: Islam is gaining a foothold in Chiapas. Spiegel International. Retrieved from: http://www.spiegel.de

Investigative Project on Terrorism (2008). Individual Terrorists, Ramzi Yousef. Retrieved from: http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/105

Kimery, A. (2011) Insight & analysis for government decision makers. Homeland Security Today. Retrieved from: http://www.hstoday.us

Longmire, S. (2011) Terrorist infiltration of the U.S.: Are we looking at the wrong border? Homeland Security Today. Retrieved from: http://www.briefings.hstoday.us/

Mauro, R. (2011). Hezbollah sets up shop in Mexico. FrontPage Magazine. retrieved from: http://www.frontpagemag.com

Miller, S. (2011). Iran assassination plot: Terrorists join forces with Mexican drug cartels? The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from: http://www.csmonitor.com

Nelson, E. (2010). Hezbollah terrorist operatives in Mexico. U.S. Border Control. Retrieved from: http://www.usbc.org

Pew Research Center (2009). Mapping the global Muslim population, a report on the size and distribution of the world's Muslim population. Washington DC.

Project America (2007). Poverty: U.S .population, official poverty rate. Retrieved from: http://www.project.org

Skinner, D. (2006). USAWC Strategy Research Project, Illegal Immigration across the U.S.- Mexico border. U.S. Army War College. Retrieved from: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/ksi499.pdf

Splintered Sunrise (2008) The Reductionism of Sendero Luminoso, retrieved from: http:// http://splinteredsunrise.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/the-reductionism-of-sendero-luminoso U.S. Census Bureau (2011). Fact finder. Retrieved from: http://factfinder.census.gov

World Net Daily (2010). Foreign terrorists breach U.S. border. Retrieved from: http://www.teaparty.org

About the Author

Victor M. Guembes, CHS-III, IAC is an expert in counterterrorism and security operations who works as a Security Agency Manager for Weiser Security Services, Inc. in Florida. A former 2nd Lieutenant in the Peruvian Police Force counterterrorism elite team "Sinchis," and former Sergeant in the US Army. He is a member of Alpha Phi Sigma, National Criminal Justice Honor Society, Eta Theta Chapter-University of Phoenix, and FBI-Infragard.


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