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The war at home: Failed charge

| Saturday, Dec. 27, 2003

On the very day that the Department of Homeland Security ratcheted-up the nation's terrorist alert level to "high," the system so supposedly well-honed to protect us reached a new low.

It was late Sunday afternoon when a Bentleyville police lieutenant encountered a van packed with 13 people at a Washington County truck stop. They apparently were from Mexico. They had no documentation. The driver had no license. None spoke English.

And an immigration official in Pittsburgh told the officer who found them to let them go. "We're not looking for Mexicans," the officer said he was told. Oooh, there's a good signal to al-Qaida.

An immigration official in Washington says the officer should have called a "service center" in Vermont. But he said the Pittsburgh office just as easily could have referred the matter. It didn't. Perhaps the staff was busy watching the Steelers game.

A similar incident occurred last May in Westmoreland County when a truckload of seven illegals was discovered in Greensburg. Another phone call to Pittsburgh immigration officials. Never mind that they were illegal aliens; immigration officials sent them on their merry way. No records. No warrants.

Both incidents are so unacceptable that they are beyond the pale. Immigration officials locally have shown at least twice this year that they are not up to the task. Heads must roll. And a word of advice to the next local gendarme who comes across the next load of illegals: Detain them and demand that immigration officials do the right thing.

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