Waitress, Waitress bring me some coffee
and make it as hot as you can
and bring me a light for this everlasting night
in the Highway Cafe of the Damned....
Austin Lounge Lizards, 1988
On October 4, Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project was invited to speak at the Roone Arledge Auditorium on the campus of Columbia University. He brought with him Marvin Stewart, another member of the Minuteman Project.
Neither got a chance to speak. Stewart attempted to open the event with a speech, but he was taunted and shouted down by a group of student protesters. When Gilchrist appeared, the protesters rushed the stage and the situation degenerated into a brawl.
Several of the protesters on the stage unfurled a banner that read: "No One is Illegal" in English-
(You can see the banner in this video. Hat tip: Belmont Club)
I went to the protest and a blog entry broke out.
While several different student groups took part in the protest, none took credit for the banner- or explained the use of Arabic in place of the expected Spanish.
The use of Arabic doesn't seem so odd to me, though.
They're called OTMs- "other than Mexicans." Undocumented immigrants from South America, Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon and other countries outside Mexico who slip over the border with the help of smugglers. According to some sources, up to 90% of OTMs are never deported. While they may be apprehended by border authorities, they are not detained due to lack of bed space. Instead they are given a "notice to appear" before an immigration judge and turned out onto the street.
It's called "catch and release."
In many cases OTMs are drawn to the porous Mexican border by the same hopes as other illegal migrants- a chance to sneak into the United States and build a better life, albeit by breaking the law. But mixed in with these migrants is another class of border crosser-
And that brings us to the Cafe La Libanesa. The Cafe La Libanesa, located in Tijuana, was owned by Salim Moughader Mucharrafille. In addition to serving members of the U.S. Consulate fresh Middle Eastern fare, Moughader smuggled illegal Lebanese migrants over the border and into the U.S. The linked MSNBC article claims at least 200 Lebanese were smuggled in by Moughader, but other sources place the figure at 300.
Among these were a number of Hezbollah sympathizers, including Mahmoud Yousef Kourani, who promptly made his way to Dearborn, Michigan and began raising money for Hezbollah. He is also known to have been trained in both weaponry and intelligence while still in Lebanon, where 4 of his brothers are active in Hezbollah.
Moughader has not been alone in his activites. Undocumented Syrians have been caught by border patrols- while smuggling Mexican migrants as well.
The situation is inevitable; with tightening airline security it was only a matter of time before terror operatives began exploiting previously-established smuggling routes and methods. So much simpler than attempting to board a jetliner- Kourani was driven over the border in the trunk of a car!
The insecurity of the U.S.-Mexico border has become a global issue (read this article, written for a British newspaper.). So global, in fact, that Al- Jazeera had planned to air a story on the border problem over the July 4, 2005 weekend. (Plans were scrapped after an outcry from Chris Simcox and the Minutemen, among others.)
This aspect of border insecurity cannot be solved a guest-worker or amnesty program. It is not a question of cultural chauvinism or economic disadvantage. It is a national security issue that places innocent lives at risk. Reducing this risk means agreeing to regulate the U.S.-Mexico border aggressively and effectively.
Perhaps we could start by abandoning "catch and release" in favor of constructing more dentention facilities. That might leave men like Kourani stranded in the Cafe Libanesa- munching complemetary baklava and staring hopelessly at highway, asking the nearest waitress for a light.