I believe that local police are a crucial cog in the War on Terrorism.  Our country has made great strides in fighting terrorism since the cowardly attacks of 9/11.  This hard work could soon unravel with the Flake-Gutierrez immigration bill and the Senate legislation under consideration next week.  There is significant potential for us to lose ground in this fight.

The recent arrest of six fundamental Islamists who were charged with plotting to attack the Fort Dix Amy base and "kill as many soldiers as possible" should serve as a dramatic wakeup call.   Among the suspects were the Duka brothers who were in this country illegally.  Despite being Albanian, they had crossed into this country from Mexico.   Between them, the three brothers have violated the law at least 54 times - the crimes ranged from drug convictions to traffic violations.  That is 54 opportunities that local law enforcement had to run the names of these terrorist plotters.  It is 54 opportunities to identify them as illegal aliens and deport them.  Will we have as many chances next time?

We must not forget that four of the 9/11 terrorists had been stopped by local police for speeding prior to the jetliner attacks on the World Trade Towers.  All four terrorists could have been arrested had police asked the right questions and realized that they were illegal immigrants.  After 9/11, the Department of Justice issued an opinion that state and local police officers do indeed have the legal authority and obligation to arrest any deportable illegal immigrant.  This served to reinforce to local law enforcement agencies just how crucial their role is in the war against terrorism.  They are our eyes and ears, effectively our first line of defense - local law enforcement can and should be making immigration arrests.  Local agencies responded strongly. The number of inquiries to the Law Enforcement Support Center to check on the immigration status of suspects nearly doubled after 9/11.

The Flake-Gutierrez immigration bill inexplicably sets out to drastically limit the ability of state and local law enforcement to assist with immigration laws during the normal course of their duties.  It explicitly limits their authority solely to the criminal provisions of immigration laws.  The bill will allow illegal aliens who overstay their visas and are subsequently stopped for violations from being reported to immigration authorities.  Regrettably the 9/11 hijackers fall into this category.

The Senate is set to debate the immigration bill that it passed last year.  That bill contained the same measure restricting local law enforcement.

The enforcement bill that Republicans passed through the House last year only to be stalled in the Senate penalized any state or locality with a sanctuary policy.  The Republican bill encouraged state and local law enforcement to help in policing our immigration laws.  It provided grants to states and localities and instruction in the investigation, identification, apprehension, arrest, detention and transfer to Federal custody of illegal aliens.

When it comes to border security, it is time for Washington to wake up to the lessons of September 11th.