On this 11th anniversary of 9/11, we remember the thousands who were slain, the brave souls who perished while rushing into harms way to save them, and those who have fallen in far away lands, in defense of our nation, in the 11 years since. We honor their memories, and pray for the families they left behind.
But I cannot stop there. Because when that first plane hit, I was literally right next door. I was in an elevator in 3 World Financial Center, 600 feet from Tower One, after breakfast with my cousin who had recently started a job at a financial company. I cannot describe the sound, vibrations and feeling of fear and dread when the plane hit, but we all knew immediately something disastrous had occured. When we emerged from the elevator, and for the next hour before I got out of there, it was Dante’s Inferno come to life. Hell on Earth. I won’t detail here the horrors and gore I witnessed. But suffice it to say, when the 9/11 memorial rolls around each year, I cannot simply “remember” the event abstractly, as is being done nationally today. This is personal. I am not “saddened”. I am angry. And the anger is STILL fresh, barely dulled after many years.
9/11 was NOT a “tragedy”. It was deliberate mass murder. And in my humble opinion, it is not sufficient to honor the memory of those who died by lighting a candle, rubbing a stone, and praying for them. We will best honor them by making sure it can never happen again.
We must never forget 9/11, but we must also never forget the gaping holes in our national security infrastructure that made this attack possible in the first place, and how they are linked to immigration and border security.
We cannot not forget that at least 5 of the hijackers – Mohammed Atta included – had stayed in the U.S. with expired student visas. Many of the hijackers also obtained driver’s licenses with them. But worst of all, 3 of them had been stopped by police for speeding when their visas were expired, and never had their immigration status checked (again, including Atta) - permitting them to remain free to carry out their murderous plan.
Here’s how the situation transpired with Atta, the ringleader of 9/11:
Atta was pulled over in April, 2001 for a traffic offense. A Broward County sheriff’s deputy ticketed him for an invalid license. He also was in the United States with an expired visa and thus an illegal alien, although the sheriff’s deputy had no way of knowing that information. He ignored the ticket and did not show up for his hearing in May. In June a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
In May, 2001 Atta legally obtained a Florida drivers’ license even though he was in the country on an expired visa. Atta was pulled over, again, for speeding in only a few weeks before the 9/11 attacks. Police did not check his immigration status, which would require a call to a Law Enforcement Support Center hotline. Had such a call been made, it would have revealed Atta had overstayed his visa. That officer, unaware of the bench warrant or of Atta’s status as an illegal alien, let him go with a warning.
Needless to say, if we had Arizona-style immigration laws in every state, terrorists like Atta would be stopped at any minor traffic stop. Yet not only are these laws fought tooth and nail by well-funded non-profits like the ACLU, La Raza and SPLC, but our own Federal government has put all its resources against Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and others to stop them from making such checks.
And disgracefully, 11 years later we have a state – New Mexico – which permits foreign nationals to obtain driver’s licenses with absolutely no checks of citizenship, permitting an unknown number of potential terrorists to gain official access to American society. Gov. Susana Martinez is fighting to end this outrage, but is facing opposition from those cynically making a racial issue out of what is a gaping national security hole. Shame on them. Have they learned nothing from 9/11?
And almost unbelievably, 11 years after the attack, we have a Department of Homeland Security which still is unable to track those here on expired visas!
That’s right…despite specific plans recommended by the 9/11 Commission, DHS still has no way to know whether any of the millions who enter our nation each year on student, work or tourist visas, have left the country. Have the media you watched today told you about this gaping hole in our national security? We owe the victims of 9/11 much more than this.
And we will not forget that our border remains wide open – despite a 2006 law to build a border fence, the billions for which were gutted by a new Nancy Pelosi-led Congress the very next year. Despite promises and platitudes from empty suits in both parties, hundreds of thousands cross our borders unmolested every single year – including terrorists…
Finally, recent actions by President Obama have set us back even further. Obama’s softening of deportation rules in August 2011 leaves untold numbers of lawbreakers and potential terrorists who overstay their visas amongst us. Shockingly, under the new Obama rules, none of the 9/11 terrorists would have been subject to removal, with their expired visas. Why? Because none of them had “criminal records” in the U.S., nor had they had done anything more than overstay their student visas – until they proceeded to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.
To honor the memories of those who have fallen, we must secure our borders and our immigration system to ensure it can never happen again. We promise to never stop fighting for these goals, and we are blessed that tens of thousands of you stand with us in this fight.
If YOU stand against illegal immigration and want to see the border secured, the rule of law upheld and amnesty for illegals stopped, then put your name where your heart is, and join the 160,000 who have signed our petition…