While the U.S. government wages war against terrorism on foreign soil, America’s poorly guarded Mexican border continues to be used as a covert entry portal by international gangs that smuggle Arabs into the U.S.
In November last year, Mexico’s consul in Lebanon, Imelda Ortiz Abdala, was arrested on charges that she helped a smuggling ring move Arabs illegally into the U.S. from Mexico. Also arrested in connection with the smuggling operation was Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, who ran a Lebanese café in Tijuana, Mexico.
U.S. security officials say Boughader, 28, is suspected of smuggling at least 300 Arabs into the U.S. between 1999 and 2002. He had been arrested previously for smuggling and served 10 months of a one-year sentence.
Although the latest case has not received wide publicity, U.S. officials are worried because the case reaches into Mexico’s foreign service, which the U.S. depends on for help in security operations against terrorism.
The Chicago Tribune reported last month that discovery of the smuggling of Arabs by Mexicans “set off alarm bells among U.S. security officials.” That’s because the arrests undercut assurances by pro-immigration groups that it would be difficult for Islamic radicals to slip through the border because they would stand out and Hispanic smugglers might hesitate to assist them.
Security officials note that café owner Boughader, who has pled guilty in one smuggling incident, easily turned his illegal alien clients over to Mexican smugglers who asked no questions about the background or motives of the people they were helping across the border.
“We cannot even talk about border security because of the high levels of corruption,” said Victor Clark Alfaro, a Mexican policy analyst in Tijuana. “The smugglers don’t care if their clients are
terrorists or not. They’re like prostitutes. All they want is money.”
Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, Mexico’s former national security advisor, warned back in 2001 that “Spanish and Islamic terrorist groups are using Mexico as a refuge.”
The Tribune reported that Abdala, the Mexican consulate officer in Beirut and 25-year veteran of Mexico’s foreign service, allegedly charged as much as $4,500 for fake visas for Arab clients during her tenure there from 1998 to 2001.
As a result of the corruption in Mexico’s foreign service, American officials say there is no way to tell how many Arabs, perhaps some with terrorist connections, have been smuggled into the U.S. through Mexican channels.
Investigators looking into the Boughader case say most of those he is suspected of smuggling were Muslims, and some were Christians from Lebanon. So far, authorities have found no connection to terrorist groups among the suspected clients, but according to the Tribune, “U.S. agents detected some support for Islamic fundamentalist groups, such as Hezbollah.” The militant Lebanese group was blamed for the murderous bomb attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut in the 1980’s.
Islamic terrorists have in the past come into the U.S. through programs designed to help Mexicans. Mahmud Abouhalima, a leader of the 1993 Trade Center bombing, was legalized as a “seasonal agricultural worker” as part of the 1986 amnesty that Congress granted to illegal aliens.