Alfonse D'Amato

American security gets mixed signals


Immigration issues continue to be front and center in Washington, and for good reason.

The Supreme Court decision affirming the ban on travel to the U.S. from a number of troubled foreign countries is a win for American security. It supports the decision to limit visits by those from countries that cannot properly vet travelers to make sure they pose no threat once they get here. That most of these countries are predominantly Muslim is an unfortunate but real fact of life in a time when Islamist terrorists continue to advocate acts of violence against the American homeland. For New Yorkers particularly, the shadow of Sept. 11, 2001, still darkens our memories.

Sadly, the forces that attacked then are still at large in the world, and vigilance against them is firmly in the national interest. If we still need proof that terrorism can seep into countries lacking sufficient screening tools, the situation in Europe is instructive. Because of their proximity to turbulent and unstable nations like Syria and Libya, European nations have been particularly hard hit by terrorists, who have attacked with knives, guns and even vehicles, with deadly results.

The perilous situation in Europe is quickly coming to a head in places like Germany, Italy and France. A recent report by Bloomberg News painted a troubling picture of the spike in criminal activity in Germany attributable to recently arrived immigrant groups. It seems that these groups too often bring the violent ways of their former countries with them to Germany. The result has been a predictable backlash against immigration there.

Closer to home, America’s southern border continues to be a focus of an ongoing struggle to prevent criminal elements from overwhelming the U.S. immigration system. This problem isn’t new, but the situation isn’t getting better. In the whirl of negative publicity about families detained and separated at the Mexican border, the frenzied U.S. press overlooked the fact that similar scenes had played out during President Obama’s administration. In fact, one widely distributed photo of young children huddled in a fenced-in holding areas turned out to be from the Obama era, not 2018. All of which simply shows that the immigration flood is not a partisan issue limited to the current administration. It’s been with us for a long time, and there are no signs it’s going away any time soon.

So, while we can all agree that keeping together young families with children who make it across the U.S. border is the most humane policy, it still leaves our border agencies with the nearly impossible task of screening out violent gang members who are slipping into our country with this human tide. Just last week, right here in New York, we got another stark reminder of how powerful and violent these gangs can be. A young boy was brazenly dragged from a bodega and stabbed to death by members of the Trinitarios, a particularly virulent Dominican gang that has been terrorizing communities in the Bronx.

The gang members who committed this heinous crime may have mistaken the victim for a member of a rival gang. Vicious gangs like the El Salvadoran MS-13 add to this volatile mix in New York. These gangs engage in pitched battles for control of their neighborhoods, and in the process kill and maim innocent bystanders caught up in the infighting.

All of this turmoil should compel some common-sense approaches to stemming violence caused by criminal elements that have invaded our border. But common sense seems to be in short supply these days in Washington. Bills that would have begun to address the immigration crisis were defeated in Congress last week by lopsided majorities. Why? Because fringe elements from both sides of the political aisle opposed any action.

Those on the left are against any effort to shore up our border security. Some of the most radical would abolish U.S. border authorities and essentially create an open border with Mexico. Those on the right oppose any moves to deal even with immigrants who are here already. They oppose any path to citizenship for illegals, and even resist measures to accommodate young immigrants who have lived here for years and are now are essentially assimilated into American society.

As long as this impasse continues, expect more very bad people to slip into the U.S. Expect more bloody gang killings. Expect more heart-rending scenes of children separated from their parents. In other words, expect more of the same.

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column?