(Cartoon by Suad Leija. Suad is the artist, however the political opinions are those of her husband. More cartoons can be seen on her new site, here.)
With the 2008 election in full swing, most of the candidates seem content to dodge the issue of border security.
Tied into another controversial issue, which is illegal immigration, discussing it is probably considered a no-win situation. It's probably likely that no matter what stance they take, it will cost them votes.
Perhaps, the reason it's so controversial is that we are a country of immigrants and most of our ancestors came to this country to seek a better life.
In most cases, what we consider poverty in this country, is a far better standard of living than where they are coming from.
Businesses take advantage of this "cheap labor" (payroll is always a key expense in any business) and because of their illegal status, illegal immigrants don't tend to complain about low wages and no benefits.
Since illegal immigrants are human beings and get sick etc., the taxpayer normally ends up paying for all the social costs associated with their employment. This is a pretty good deal for the employers using this "in-sourced" form of labor.
If you really wanted to solve the illegal immigration problem, it would probably be pretty simple. All you'd have to do is go after the businesses hiring them.
If the process were more transparent, they would probably have to take care of the people, who work for them a little better, also.
The biggest problem with illegal immigration is that all sorts of criminals, and some say, people with political agendas (terrorists) can easily camouflage themselves in the worldwide exodus of people from poor and war-torn countries. The illegal immigration process is controlled by organized criminals, who only care if the person they are bringing in has the money to pay them.
If you think illegal immigration consists of only people from Mexico, this is no longer the case. More and more, they are coming from a lot of different places and illegal immigration is hardly a problem just in the United States.
Whether they are here to find work, commit crimes or plan the next 9/11 -- the first thing someone entering a country illegally needs to do is make themselves appear to be legal. The way they do this is by using counterfeit documents to establish a (seemingly)legitimate identity.
In the hands of terrorists, counterfeit documents are an enabler to murder innocent people because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Given that Atta and the 9/11 crew used counterfeit documents to establish themselves in the U.S., it amazes me that as I write this, the business in them is booming.
The story of Suad Leija has been covered extensively in the mainstream media. Suad is the stepdaughter of one of the prominent leaders of an organized counterfeit document cartel operating throughout North America. Suad met and eventually married an American businessman, with alleged ties to the intelligence community.
The businessman then tried to strike a deal with Suad's family to use their database to identify potential terrorists -- who had been provided counterfeit documents -- in exchange for the release of a prominent member of the family, who had been arrested in Chicago.
The operation took a turn when the cartel refused to provide this information and Suad ended up assisting the authorities in identifying the main players in the cartel, as well as, the scope of their operation throughout the United States.
There have been 38 arrests and the court case is still underway.
Please note that ties to an intelligence operation have not been confirmed by a government source. Nonetheless, if you've followed the story, this is probably a fairly good deduction.
I wouldn't expect the government to confirm, or deny this story. Revealing details about intelligence operations compromises their efforts. This is probably why the intelligence community is and always will be the unsung heroes in the "War against Terror."
Charlie Wilson's War, the Tom Hanks movie, although probably a little "Hollywood" in nature is probably a good example of how a few good intelligence types can make a big difference. True stories, such as this one, normally are only officially confirmed years after the fact.
Just the other day, Newsweek released an update to the Suad story, with more details about the operation.
Joe Contreras (Newsweek) writes:
When federal prosecutors indicted 22 members of the Leija Sánchez counterfeit ID organization in Chicago last April, they described the arrests as "a significant setback" to one of the largest criminal enterprises of its kind ever to operate in the United States. But they made no mention of Suad Leija and the remarkable tale of how her marriage to an undercover American agent and her choice of country over family led to the downfall of the fake-document ring. Suad began cooperating with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in January 2006 and gave investigators the names and addresses of her stepfather's siblings and top lieutenants, who had been photographed while under surveillance by the Feds. Her decision to aid ICE officials, she says, grew out of concern that the fake green cards, driver's licenses and Social Security cards churned out by her family's document mills could be used by terrorists to stage another devastating attack on American soil. "Just as I wouldn't help a drug peddler sell narcotics to kids, there's no way I'd do it for terrorists who want to use fake identification produced by my family," Suad told NEWSWEEK in a phone interview from an undisclosed location. "If another September 11 were to happen and I'd done nothing to stop my family, then I would be just as guilty."
The Newsweek story also points out that these counterfeit documents are hardly being only sold to illegal immigrants, who want them to get a job:
Senior ICE officials also see the booming fraudulent documents business as a bona fide threat to national security. The industry generates annual revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and its primary markets are the estimated 12 to 20 million foreigners living illegally in the United States and teenagers wanting to sneak into a bar. But some of the 9/11 hijackers obtained legitimate ID documents under false pretenses, and a terrorist suspect linked to Al Qaeda named Nabil al-Marabh allegedly produced fake ID documents at his uncle's print shop in Toronto prior to the attacks on New York and Washington. Though the clientele of the Leija Sánchez ring was overwhelmingly Latin American in origin, federal prosecutors say that documents were sold to Algerians, other Arabs and Pakistanis. "That's where the vulnerability is," says James Spero, a deputy assistant director in the ICE office of investigations. "You can buy a set of documents that will make it appear you are legally in the U.S. for as little as $100, and nobody in these organizations does background checks on their customers."
The article ends with the conclusion by Mr. Contreras based on interviews with ICE officials:
ICE agents have arrested 38 members of the Leija Sánchez organization to date, and from his Mexican prison cell Manuel is currently fighting extradition to the U.S. His old business associate Pedro Castorena was flown from Mexico to Denver last month to stand trial later this year on fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering charges, and Suad is expected to testify for the prosecution. But as the decline and fall of Pablo Escobar's Colombian Medellin cartel proved in the 1990s, the decapitation of a criminal organization's leadership will not disrupt the industry as long as there is strong demand for its product. And as of this week, ICE officials reported no decline in the availability of bogus documents on the streets of any major U.S. city.
Not mentioned in the Newsweek article is that the lead ICE agent on this case, Cory Voorhis, was arrested and is being charged with "exceeding his unauthorized access to a federal criminal database."
Voorhis and his legal team contend that he was only exposing plea bargain practices that allowed illegal immigrants charged with serious crimes to not be deported by the Denver DA's office.
Please note the crimes in question are a little more serious than just crossing the border without the right documentation.
Some are comparing this case to another case, which has received a lot more attention in the media. As stated on his legal defense site:
There are troubling parallels with the 2005 prosecution in El Paso, Texas of two Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. Ramos and Compean were convicted of shooting a fleeing drug smuggler primarily on the testimony of the drug smuggler himself, who was granted immunity by the US Attorney. It has since been revealed that the US Attorney knew of the smuggler’s long criminal history yet succeeded in withholding this evidence from the jury.
A news release from his legal defense site stated that this might jeopardize the current prosecution of the Castorena-Leija counterfeit documents cartel.
From the news release:
The federal prosecution of Cory Voorhis, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent who is charged in a high-profile case with three federal misdemeanors for allegedly illegally accessing a restricted database, could lead to the dismissal of charges or to drastically reduced charges for the alleged head of the notorious Mexico-based criminal Castorena Family Organization (CFO), some say.The Suad Leija story isn't over yet and only time will tell what the final outcome will be. The full story of Operation Paper Tiger can be purchased (which includes actual wiretap transcripts) on the Paper Weapons site.
The most recent Newsweek story written by Joe Contreras can be seen in full (recommended), here.
In case you are interested in the Cory Voorhis case, a lot of information can be seen on his legal defense site, here.
Suad has also put up a new site, to further her personal interests once this story comes to a conclusion. Please note that Suad is only 23 years old and hopefully has other things in her life to pursue once this drama is over.
Below is another example of her work, which can be seen on her site (linked above). Please note that she is only the artist and the expressed views of those of her husband.