Desert Invasion - U.S.
Congressional Record on destruction of border forests and border deserts
Excerpts from U.S. House Testimony by Rep. Tom Tancredo on Halting Illegal Immigration -- (House of Representatives - March 04, 2003)
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Bishop of Utah). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 7, 2003, the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tancredo) is recognized for 60 minutes...
At any rate, tonight I do want to talk more about a different issue than the budget. I want to talk about, of course, the issue of national security and the issue of immigration and how the two actually connect to each other.
A great deal of debate is ongoing in the country about the activities that the United States will be involved with in a relatively short time perhaps in Iraq, whether or not we should be and whether or not the President is right to, in fact, address this issue in the way that he is choosing to do so. And that debate is appropriate and it is healthy in our Republic. Some aspects of it are healthy. But the one thing that I seldom hear being discussed by anyone, frankly, on either side of the issue of the United States involvement in Iraq is the actual threat that is posed by the action that we will take in that part of the world, the threat to our homeland, the threat to American citizens here in the United States. And the threat is real.
No one, for instance, believes that our armies will be defeated in Iraq. No one thinks that we will fail in the desert of Iraq. Saddam Hussein does not think that we will fail there. No one believes that that is where the final victory in this huge endeavor we are involved with will be won. It is very possible, it is even predictable, I think, that various aspects of this battle against terrorism will be fought in a variety of places around the world, and we will experience casualties in places other than the desert of Iraq.
And those casualties may very well be here in the continental United States.
We know that Saddam Hussein and others have called for a greater level of terrorist activities be committed against American interests should we commence hostility in Iraq. And we know that that may very well be the commencement of hostility, that is, may very well be a catalyzing agent that will bring together many of the disparate forces in that part of the world in what is often referred to as a jihad against the United States, and we must be prepared for it. And we have heard how FEMA has put out various pieces of information and on the FEMA Web site people can go to it and figure out how to protect their homes and figure out what to do if they are at their business and something happens, some sorts of attacks occur, biological, chemical or nuclear. And we are preparing the Nation for this eventuality. We talk about it a great deal, and we should because it is a true possibility. It is, in fact, a probability.
Now, we know that and we talk about that on the floor of the House, and we encourage Americans to be vigilant, and we ask them to take measures to protect themselves against these kinds of terrorist activities which we anticipate in the United States of America on our ground. It is amazing to me then that there is such a silence, almost one would say a deaf silence, emanating out of this body, out of the administration, certainly out of any sort of aspect of the media by and large, I guess I should say, some aspect of the media. Do pay attention to what I am going to say and suggest that it is, in fact, something Americans should be made aware of.
But we hear very little discussion about the fact that our borders are porous and across them come people not just looking for a job, although many and in fact most do come that way and for that purpose. But many others come looking to do us great damage. And we talk about, we do pay lip service to things like the creation of the Homeland Defense agency and the reconfiguration of the INS and the Border Patrol within that umbrella agency we are calling Homeland Defense; and that I suppose is supposed to salve the concerns, that is supposed to make us all feel better and more secure: the fact that we are arranging the deck chairs, and that new boxes are being constructed with new names in them to oversee agencies with really important-sounding titles, all dealing with homeland security.
But, Mr. Speaker, I just came back from a trip to the border, to the southern border; and I will tell you and I will tell anyone who will listen that our borders are not secure, that our homeland is not secure, even though we have an agency for that purpose. It is not secure. It is incredibly vulnerable. People still by the thousands come across those borders at their will. Again, most I am sure are doing nothing more than looking for the kind of life, a better life that our, perhaps your grandparents, certainly mine, came here for. They are coming illegally; and, therefore, they should not be given any sort of sustenance here. We should not encourage that. We should not reward that kind of activity. And I do hope that we will begin to understand that you cannot create a sieve on the border that allows only those people who are looking for a better life to come through it illegally, while simultaneously stopping those people who are coming here to kill us. I do not know how to construct such a sieve. I do not believe anyone does.
Yet that is exactly what we are trying to do today. We are trying our best, and the government really should be given credit, certainly the administration, for the diligence that they have exhibited heretofore, that we have been able to see actually, perhaps stop certain activities and events from occurring, and we should praise the efforts of our various intelligence gathering services and parts of the homeland security agency, because there are things that I am sure could have happened to the United States, very bad things that have been stopped by their diligence, and I commend them for it.
Their job is overwhelming. It is made immensely more difficult because the borders are porous. We have embarked upon this interesting strategy that says we are going to try to find the people who have gotten into the United States and are here trying to do what they were sent to do, the literally thousands that we have been told are here in these sleeper cells, just awaiting orders to execute some act of terrorism against the United States, and we apply a great deal of our resources to that end, to trying to find them once they are here and stop them from doing what it is they are going to do.
We do not do what is, I think, most logical thing, the thing that our constituents ask us to do every time I think almost any of us go home and have a town meeting. Somebody usually, certainly in my town meetings, will bring up the issue of border security and ask why we are not trying to stop them at the borders, why we do not try to stop the people from coming into the United States and doing bad things, why is it that we are concentrating on trying to do something about the ones that are here now, and here is the answer. It is an ugly answer, but it is the answer.
The answer, Mr. Speaker, is that if we were to actually do what is necessary to prevent people from coming into this country to create havoc and to commit acts of terrorism, we would essentially end illegal immigration, and therefore, we will not do that. We will not secure the border. We will not defend American lives or property because it would end illegal immigration, and Mr. Speaker, there are many people in this body, there are people throughout the government that recognize the political peril that might develop as a result of doing what I suggest.
There are large segments of the American population who could be offended by us securing our own borders. I do not understand how that could be. I do not understand how any American, any American regardless of the hyphen, what word we put before the hyphen, I do not understand how any American could say please do not defend our borders because if you do, fewer of my countrymen would be able to come in. Because if you feel that way, then that it is your countrymen that we are keeping out, then you are not an American, of course. You are connected, at least mentally, to another country. Politically, emotionally, linguistically, whatever, you are connected to another country and your concerns about our borders should not be taken into consideration.
Anyone who believes themselves to be an American, it seems to me, would be willing to say, and in fact, they do in huge number, please protect the border, please stop people from coming into this country to do us great harm because it may be me, it may be my family that is the casualty and the casualties of the next terrorist activity, and because they have some sort of connection to our country, to the United States of America, because they want to see us survive, and they recognize that the world in which we live today is the world that does not, in fact, exist easily with things like open borders.
The world in which we live, the kind of world we have lived in this United States for a couple of hundred years where we felt so secure from the problems of other countries, the oceans protected us and that we could defend ourselves by sending armies to other countries, that world is gone. It no longer really exists.
Our Nation is at risk because our borders are porous, and no matter how many times somebody stands on the floor of this House or in front of the cameras at press briefings and says something like we are doing everything possible to defend the people of this country, no matter how many times they say it, it simply is not true. It is not true.
I can tell my colleagues that anyone who lives on the border, northern or southern, will tell you that the border is porous and across that border is coming thousands, thousands of people over the course of a year, millions of people, and that they will also tell you, by the way, Mr. Speaker, that their lives are being essentially destroyed, that their way of life is being destroyed, that their ranches and farms and homes along that border are being destroyed, literally and figuratively, destroyed.
We spoke to rancher after rancher in Cochise County on the border with Mexico, and they talked about having lived there for generations and how something different was happening in the last 4 or 5 years where they have always had the issue of, in the past, illegal immigrants coming across their border or that border and on to their land, and it is a few here and there, and they would give them food. They would give them jobs many times frankly, and these people would either move on or move back to Mexico at certain points in time, and it really was not much of a problem frankly.
Something, they keep saying, has happened in the last 4 or 5 years, something very odd and very disconcerting, and what they say is that it is not just one or two people coming across. It is, in fact, hordes of people, thousands of people coming across the border, destroying the fences, depositing litter throughout the land and in areas that were heretofore pristine in nature. They are now essentially the local landfill, but there is no EPA to govern the problem and to constrict the use of this particular land.
People will come to what are called pick-up sites, Mr. Speaker, and they are all over the land in this area. There are places where people will cross into the United States illegally, continue on foot to a particular spot inside the United States where there is a road, and they will congregate there, sometimes in the hundreds. Over a period of time, maybe thousands will congregate in this particular area, waiting for their truck, semis, various other forms of transportation to get there, pick them up and take them into the interior of the United States.
The land becomes essentially destroyed where these sites are. There is so much trash that a person literally has to be careful as they walk through there because of what they might step on or what they might touch. I mean thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of water bottles and trash and plastic bags because people are told they must discard everything. They must discard their backpacks, jackets, coats, shirts, whatever, get into these whatever kind of transportation is made available to them with as little as possible because they need more room. So they do not let them take in anything that they are carrying and they have to just simply drop it at that point.
The land is devastated. If this happened anywhere else in the United States, the Sierra Club would be going crazy. We would be hearing from them on the floor of this House every single day. Somebody would be getting sued. I guarantee my colleagues that. The cameras from ABC, NBC and CBS would be there every night saying, look what these people are doing to our land; they are destroying this property.
Yet, I really have not seen that kind of exposure of this particular problem. I have certainly not heard the Sierra Club or any of the environmentalist organizations out there in the United States condemn this activity and try to do something about it and suggest that maybe the government ought to take some action.
The trash that is deposited is not only unsightly and becoming something that becomes very dangerous at certain points in time, but it is also, of course, something that these ranchers have to put up with, and it becomes an economic liability for them because cattle eat the trash. They try to consume the plastic, and of course, it will kill them in a short period of time.
The human feces that is deposited in this area, oftentimes a rainstorm will occur in that, especially in that part of the country it occurs quickly. These arroyos fill up. The human waste is washed down. It gets into the water supply for cattle and eventually for human beings. It is a very dangerous situation, very ugly situation.
I talked to ranchers who spend most of their day trying to repair their fences instead of actually conducting the ranching operations that are necessary to keep them afloat. Many of these ranchers are in bankruptcy.
Then, of course, there are the even more dangerous aspects of this, because the people coming across the border, many of them are carrying drugs, illegal narcotics into the United States. They come with backpacks, 60 to 80 pounds on their back. Sometimes they come guarded by people carrying M-16s or various other automatic weapons. They come across the land in, again, droves, thousands. We have pictures of them.
These are very dangerous people. These are people who do not simply drop everything and run when they are confronted by either a rancher or a border patrol. They will want to many times shoot it out with them, and they have done so.
Even some of the people who are not necessarily directly connected to the drug trafficking have become very indifferent in their nature, very aggressive, very antagonistic to the ranchers in the area, have threatened them physically, have assaulted them, have broken into their homes, their barns, the buildings on their ranches, have vandalized the wells, have threatened the family members. Person after person we speak to is armed.
Children go to school armed, 13- and 14-year-old kids. Their parents are afraid to send them that far alone or unarmed.
Ranchers have to keep shotguns or other firearms by their door, and as one rancher said to me, nobody should have to live like this. We have lived here for generations. Nobody ever locked their doors. Nobody ever locked their cars. This was the idyllic and picturesque rural life that most people thought existed in this country.
Everything has changed on the border. The government of Mexico has decided to move as many people into the United States as possible, as I was told by Juan Hernandez, who was the head of something called the Ministry for Mexicans Living in the United States, a newly-created ministry in Mexico. He was at that time the minister, and when I asked him the purpose of such an agency, I had never heard of such an agency before, he said, well, no, it is new, and I am the first minister, and the purpose is essentially to increase the flow of people into the United States from Mexico. I said, why do you want to do that? And he said there are several reasons.
He was very, very candid. I must tell my colleagues I was astounded by how candid he was when he said, well, the reason why we are trying to get as many people into the United States as possible is so that eventually we will be able to affect American policy vis-a-vis Mexico just by the number of people who exist there. He said, of course, these people send money home to Mexico. It is called remittance and it accounts for almost 30 percent of their GDP. It is a very important function. It is a very important part of the Mexican government and the Mexican economy.
It also serves another purpose, although he did not claim this, but it is certainly accurate to say that because of Mexico's enormous growth rate in the last 25 years, having doubled their population, they are now, and because they are still looking, they still have an economy is that is anything but robust. They have a huge unemployment problem and they have lots and lots of very young people who are unemployed, and as certainly we know, what that means throughout anywhere, any country, it means instability.
And so they want to move these people out of Mexico and into the United States.
Some people would even suggest that there are other reasons, that term 'reconquista' is more than just an idle phrase; that people actually believe that they can reconquer that part of the United States, the southern part of the United States, by simply moving people into it. Well, there are many reasons why we are seeing this enormous number of people coming across the border, and Mexico may very well have their reasons for encouraging the flow into the United States. But we have absolutely no reason to accept this state of affairs except for the fact that we fear the politics. We fear the political reaction to any action we take to secure the border, both northern and southern.