But lies don't help.
I'm already sick of the phony "immigrants as terrorists" meme our Texas Congressmen are promoting out in the world. First it was Republican John Culberson lying to Fox News announcing that Al Quaeda members had been caught crossing the border in Hudspeth County. ("First," Osama said, "we'll knock down the World Trade Center. Then we'll take Salt Flat.") That got hyped for a week, then the retraction was basically a blurb by comparison.
Then last Sunday, the Austin Statesman repeated without attribution the unfounded charge that the Salvadoran youth gang MS-13 is a "terrorist" group. ("New breed of street gang spreads through Texas, US: MS-13 viewed as terrorists by feds," Jan. 22) Despite the headline, no federal official was quoted in the article making such a claim.
So where did it come from? Well, Democratic Congressman Solomon Ortiz told the same unfounded fib to a House Committee last year. The first time I saw the allegation was in the Beaumont Enterprise ("Gang's number growing" Dec. 4, 2005), but they at least had the courtesy to source the charges, and to debunk them:
Even more startling, MS-13 reportedly has connections to al-Qaida, according to information on the Web site of U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi. Central American police have said al-Qaida was trying to recruit MS-13 gang members to smuggle large sums of money into the country, Ortiz testified in March before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security.So Congressman Ortiz said this is happening, but agents in charge of border security don't know anything about it. Either this man needs to be deputized and sent into the field, since his incredible intelligence-gathering skills obviously surpass the combined efforts of the nation's entire homeland security apparatus, or he just made it up to grab headlines, like Culberson did.
Customs agents say there are no confirmed connections between al-Qaida and MS-13.
Now on his website, Ortiz stops short of repeating this claim, but plays the terrorism card nonetheless: "there is the real possibility that terrorists can – or already are – exploiting this series of holes in our law enforcement system along the southern border" he says without a hint of factual support. (Governor Rick Perry does the same thing.)
This sort of speculative rhetoric is common, since it can't be disproven, but it's just a way for blowhards to pass the time, not based on any formal threat assessment. (After all, the guys on the planes on 9/11 came in through major airports.) If it doesn't make anyone safer, then, why would Texas Congressmen lie? Here's my theory (not an original one, mind you): Congressmen have a bipartisan interest in the same ignominious media strategy that we're seeing play out in these quotes:
It draws federal pork dollars to your district.
It re-elects incumbents.
It gets you quoted in the media, and helps them sell advertising.
It lets the speaker feel self-important and talk down to his constituents.
Hype. Fear. After a while it becomes a reflex for some politicians, it works so well.
Are you sick of it yet? I am.