(CNSNews.com) - If another terrorist attack is conducted on U.S. soil by illegal aliens, the fault will lie with Congress and the president, one lawmaker asserted Thursday.
"If we have another event, and it's perpetrated by someone coming into this country illegally, and we've done no more to protect our borders and actually enforce our immigration policy...then the blood of the people that are killed will be on our hands and the president's," Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) told CNSNews.com.
Tancredo said he has made the same statement to White House officials. Their response? "They told me never to darken the doorstep of the White House again," Tancredo revealed. "They went ballistic on me.
"They asked: 'How dare you say a thing like that?' I said: 'You tell me who people should blame - the Elks Club? Who's responsible?'" Tancredo recalled asking White House officials.
Tancredo spoke with CNSNews.com on the eve of Thursday's hearing conducted by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims. The hearing focused on the "matricula consular" identification cards issued by the government of Mexico to illegal aliens in the U.S.
Last month, a Treasury Department rule allowing banks to accept the cards took effect, prompting more than 70 banks, including the Bank of America, to begin allowing the illegals to open accounts and conduct financial transactions.
"At a time when the federal government is taking monumental steps to track the entry and exit of foreigners, to find deportable aliens who have fled authorities and regain some sense of control of our borders, the [Treasury Department] has caved in to the banking lobby and thrown public safety out the window," Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said in a release.
In press reports, Edgardo Flores Riva, the Mexican general consul, recounted how a Mexican national living in Washington, D.C., had stored $10,000 - all of his savings - in his bedroom. According to Flores Riva, a house fire destroyed all of the money.
"It sounds very basic, but if you cannot prove your identity, there are many important things you simply cannot do," Flores Riva told the Washington Times.
The cards have already been accepted as legitimate identification by more than 800 police departments in 13 states. More than 400 local governments also now accept the cards as proper identification for a variety of functions. Montgomery County, Md., began accepting the cards in May.
"The county is in this position because these people are residents, and a local government must deal with them, as they have an effect on our community," Elizabeth Davidson, director for the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs, testified Thursday. "We do not have a role in immigration, but we do have a role in public safety, public health, education and other basic local services."
But critics argue that the cards provide de facto amnesty and encourage immigrants to continue breaking immigration law. More importantly, they argue, the cards violate the USA PATRIOT Act and pose a serious national security threat.
Tancredo described an instance where an individual in his home state was arrested with seven of the cards, each bearing a different name. Colorado subsequently became the first state to enact legislation banning their acceptance. Tancredo recently introduced federal legislation, H.R. 502, to ban acceptance of the cards nationwide.
Stewart Verdery, an assistant secretary with the Border and Transportation Security Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, said an inter-agency process led by the Homeland Security Council was developing a comprehensive government policy on foreign consular identification cards.
"The inter-agency group is also specifically examining counterfeit and fraud concerns with the Mexican consular identification cards," Verdery said. "However, given the increase in the volume of requests for these cards in the past year and in light of the heightened security concerns in the post-9/11 environment, we are concerned about the acceptance of these cards."
Yet Roberta Jacobsen, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, expressed concern that limiting acceptance of the cards might prompt the same treatment of U.S. citizens abroad.
"Should a foreign country decide to limit acceptance of such documentation or other traditional documentation, such as state-issued identifications or driver's licenses, the actions of American citizens abroad could be seriously restricted," Jacobsen said Thursday.
Steve McCraw, an official with the FBI Office of Intelligence, said both the FBI and the Justice Department have concluded that the cards are not reliable forms of identification "due to the non-existence of any means of verifying the true identity of the cardholder." He described how "at least one individual of Middle Eastern descent" had been arrested recently in possession of a Mexican ID card.
"The ability of foreign nationals to use the matricula consular to create a well-documented but fictitious identity in the United States provides an opportunity for terrorists to move freely without triggering name-based watch lists that are disseminated to local police officers. It allows them to board planes without revealing their true identity. All of these threats are in addition to the transfer of terrorist funds," McCraw said.
Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said the testimony from the various federal agencies underscores a rift within the administration over the cards and immigration policy in general.
"There seems to be a tug-of-war within the administration, with the Justice Department and Homeland Security generally being in favor of muscular immigration enforcement, whereas...the Treasury Department and State Department are in favor of the status quo - an immigration policy that looks tough to satisfy public concerns but is never implemented," Krikorian told CNSNews.com.
He explained that the failure to reach an immigration policy consensus "leaves the administration in a position where it cannot do controversial or difficult things."
Tancredo detailed the big problems confronting immigration policy and enforcement reform.
"One: Democrats see massive immigration into this country - both legal and illegal - as a source of potential supporters. Two: Republicans see that same phenomenon as a source of cheap labor, and of course, the president, who wants to make a wedge issue out of it in the next election," Tancredo explained. "Those three forces combined make it damn near impossible to do anything about immigration reform."
Tancredo predicted that neither his bill nor any meaningful immigration reform would be passed anytime soon. "If you think that a third-term congressman can do much about that, explain to me how, and I'll be happy to try."
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