Alaska's vulnerability to terrorism in these tumultuous times was underscored earlier this month when a state trooper during a routine traffic stop just outside Anchorage discovered five Mexicans illegally in the United States.
The five, carrying counterfeit documents, were on their way to a drywall job in Wasilla when trooper Vance Peronto stopped the vehicle they were riding in because one of its headlights was out.
The good news is that an observant state trooper, in the right place at the right time and doing his job, discovered them and they were taken into custody for an immigration hearing in Washington.
The bad news is that the five could just as easily have been terrorists in a car with both of its headlights operating and a trunk full of explosives.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, says its 13 special agents stationed in Alaska take into custody about 300 illegal aliens during an average year, with most of them coming from Mexico and South America. And most are carrying counterfeit documents such as bogus Social Security cards, alien registration cards and other false identification.
Across the nation, it is estimated there are as many as 10 million undocumented aliens living underground, and the Border Patrol alone apprehends annually more than 1 million of them crossing illegally into the United States.
The figures are mind-boggling. How many get through each and every day is only a guess, but there have been enough of them to drastically affect the health services, social programs and education systems of several states. There have been enough of them to significantly increase the populations of those states and cause shifts in representation in Congress.
The biggest question, of course, is this: How many of them are not here for jobs or economic opportunity, but instead are slipping into this country on terror missions?
Alaska certainly offers an alluring target for those who would attack this nation and its citizens, and it is of growing importance that those who have no business in the United States are caught and quickly ejected, or jailed. Protection of our borders must become the cornerstone of our war on terror, especially in this part of the world.
That will require continued vigilance from troopers like Vance Peronto and the special agents of ICE, and even ordinary citizens, to stem the flow of illegal aliens before some of them if not more of them make their way across our porous borders with more on their minds than hanging drywall.
Voice of the Times, Anchorage
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