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Letter to Secretary Tom Ridge

Location: Unknown

August 3, 2004

The Honorable Tom Ridge
Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Like many Americans, we watched your announcement elevating the terror alert levels as a result of specific and credible threats on financial sector targets in Washington, DC, New Jersey, and the financial district of New York City.

The announcement coincided with recent news reports of Al Qaeda agents using the Mexican border as a means to enter the United States. The apprehension of one woman who was reportedly on a DHS terrorist watch list at McAllen, Texas airport has been widely reported. As you know, she had in her possession a South African passport, entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico and was headed for New York City. According to many of these well-publicized reports, she had entered the U.S. this way on more than two hundred different occasions.

While we are thankful that law enforcement personnel prevented her from boarding that plane, the incident raises a larger issue; specifically, whether or not terrorists from the Middle East are using our inadequately patrolled land borders with Canada and Mexico for easy entry into the United States.

To that end, we would like to know how many non-Mexicans (called "OTM's" in Border Patrol jargon) have been entering the country across our southern border in recent months. Our sources inside the Border Patrol have consistently placed the number of OTM apprehensions at 5% to 10% of total apprehensions. For fiscal year 2003, with 905,000 total apprehensions in all sectors, that would have been from 45,000 to 90,000 OTM's apprehended nationwide (this is a count of apprehensions, not successful entries, but most independent observers and residents along the southern border believe that two to three times as many people make it past the Border Patrol as are apprehended).

Within the OTM category, it is my understanding that there is a subgroup called "Special Interest Aliens," (SIA's), which consists of individuals whose country of origin is on the State Department's list of nations believed to be harboring terrorists. Reliable sources inside the Border Patrol have placed the number of "SIA's" in fiscal year 2003 at over 6,000.
In that regard, we would like to request that you provide us with the following information:

First, since September 11, 2001, how many "Special Interest Aliens" have been apprehended on crossing into the United States from Mexico and how many from Canada; and

Second, how many "OTM" illegal aliens have been apprehended attempting to enter the country from Mexico in that same period of time?

Third, please provide the "countries of origin" for the OTM's and / or SIA's apprehended during this period of time.

The nation needs accurate information on which to judge our security needs and the character of the threat we are facing, and we can think of no valid reason why this information should not be made public.

Thank you in advance for your favorable consideration of this request.


Tom Tancredo
Member of Congress

Dana Rohrabacher
Member of Congress

Ed Royce
Member of Congress

Walter Jones
Member of Congress

Lamar Smith
Member of Congress

John Duncan, Jr.
Member of Congress

John Sullivan
Member of Congress

Scott Garrett
Member of Congress

Jeff Miller
Member of Congress

Virgil Goode
Member of Congress

Steve King
Member of Congress

Mac Collins
Member of Congress

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