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There is no more important tool for preventing future attacks on U.S. soil than the nation’s immigration system. The 20th anniversary of the attacks that claimed thousands of American lives is an appropriate occasion to reflect on the role immigration failures played in the 9/11 attacks and the progress made in limiting opportunities for future terrorism. Americans may disagree on the level of immigration, and its costs and benefits, but few would argue against the importance of keeping foreign-born terrorists out of the country and apprehending terrorists who have entered the U.S.
In this week’s episode of Parsing Immigration Policy, Todd Bensman, the Center’s senior national security fellow, discusses the role of immigration law in protecting the American people. He highlights the importance of the National Vetting Center and the national security implications of an open southern border. What further policy changes are needed to keep us safe?
Everything about September 11, 2001, was unprecedented. That day witnessed, among other things, the largest maritime evacuation in history. More than half a million people stranded on Manhattan Island were taken off by boat in the course of eight hours. By comparison, at Dunkirk in late May of 1940, some 338,000 allied troops were evacuated across the English Channel over the course of nine days. There is a moving short film called Boatlift about this amazing and massive instance of spontaneous cooperative order amidst chaos and destruction, which I highly recommend.
I was part of that 9/11 boatlift. I’m pretty sure that I was on the first boat, among the first refugees from Lower Manhattan to cross the Hudson. I don’t want to use the word “survivors” because, at least in my case, my life was never really in danger. My story is completely devoid of heroism. But I did witness the events of that day from uncomfortably close range, and an anniversary seems as good an occasion as any to write it down, before the memories, which are still vivid, fade.
Where were you 15 years ago? It seems so unlikely that the Islamic terrorist attacks that forever changed the world happened so long ago. After that Tuesday, I remember seeing signs of “United we Stand,” “God Bless America,” “Never Forget.” Have we forgotten what happened and its impact? Have we forgotten the 2, 977 souls […]
Fourteen years ago today, 19 Egyptians and Saudis on expired student visas hijacked airplanes and turned them into weapons. Our government’s response has been to ensure that planes are never again turned into weapons. So we shuffle through long security lines, remove our belts and shoes and hats and coats, and then choose between being photographed nude or getting felt up by government bureaucrats. We can’t bring a bottle of water or shampoo or a pocketknife with us. Our luggage is never truly locked, and government bureaucrats routinely steal from it.
Meanwhile, 14 years later, we still have no idea how many Egyptians and Saudis might be here on expired student visas.
I was 22 years old and living in my first apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. My parents just moved down to North Carolina that June and my sister lived in Colorado; my brother was living in Rockland, so I wasn’t completely alone, but I kind of felt that way. On September 10, I started a new job as a deck hand on a ferry that went from Glen Cove on Long Island to downtown Manhattan. It was an amazing job, and super easy. We left Glen Cove at around 7:30 AM and got to the downtown dock an hour later so the high-end customers could get to their desks before the morning bell rang at the stock exchange. To reduce fuel costs, we docked at Liberty Landing in New Jersey instead of shelping back to Long Island and waited until the evening run at 5:30 PM. Like I said, super easy, and I got paid for that entire time. It was a great job, on a great day. A friend of mine from school who helped me land the job and I watched the buzzing downtown of Manhattan with the Twin Towers as an amazing backdrop on a beautiful, cloudless day, very similar to the one that followed it when all hell would break loose. September 10, 2001 was a day of promises and new beginnings for me.
I was not scheduled to work the next day, so I slept-in. I was woken up by my phone ringing, several times. Finally I picked the phone up around 10:00 AM. It was my boyfriend — now, my husband — calling me. “Where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling and calling. Your mom even called me.” It takes me a bit to get my faculties together when I wake up so it was a while before I could say more than “Huh, what?” He went on to explain what happened. I know it may seem unbelievable that someone could be unaware that that all hell was breaking loose a mere five miles south of her, but all was peace in my neck of the woods until I heard the military jets flying overhead. When I finally got my TV to work and found the news, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. What do you mean planes flew into the Twin Towers and they collapsed? How is that possible? That doesn’t happen in real life.
I checked my answering machine and saw I had 67 messages. They were from my mom, freaking out and trying to find out where I am. From my sister, my brother, aunts, uncles, and friends, all trying to find me. Friends asking if any of their family members had contacted me. The frantic note in everyone’s voice made it all the more real that wow, this is really happening. I finally dressed, called the ferry office, and told the dispatcher that I could come in if I was needed. She didn’t hesitate: “Come in,” she said. So I threw on some clothes, packed a bag (because I didn’t know how long this would be) and headed out the door.
When Hope n’ Change reflects on the anniversary of 9/11, we think of the New York skyline and are overwhelmed by the emptiness. Empty not just of the souls and structures which were once there, but a new and growing emptiness of resolve, national unity, and moral courage. Over fifty of our nation’s top intelligence […]
It was the most gorgeous morning in southeast Pennsylvania. The sky was pure blue, not a cloud. Crystal clear, the sun was so pretty on my early drive to work at 6:45 am. Preview Open