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An interview with Michelle Malkin

By W. James Antle III
web posted January 13, 2003

Michelle Malkin has emerged as one of the leading figures in a new generation of conservative writers and pundits. Over the past several years, she has become an indispensable source of commentary on topics ranging from government waste to environmental extremism. Creators Syndicate syndicates her column to about 100 newspapers nationwide, including the New York Post, Boston Herald, Washington Times and Miami Herald. It also appears on such leading conservative websites as Townhall.com and Jewish World Review.

Michelle MalkinMore recently, Malkin, the daughter of Filipino immigrants, has focused on flawed immigration policies that allow lawbreakers to gain entry to the United States ahead of law-abiding people seeking to live the American Dream. In her New York Times best-selling book Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores, she argues that this is not simply unfair – in the post-9/11 world it is dangerous and monumentally stupid. Border security is a cutting edge issue in an age of internal terrorism.

Through e-mail correspondence, I recently had the opportunity to ask Malkin some questions about her work and public policy views. She was kind enough to share her answers with the readers of ESR.

Q: National Review's John Derbyshire joked that while you deserve a Congressional Medal of Honor for writing Invasion, you will be lucky if the politically correct don't try to prosecute you for hate speech.  Past books critical of U.S. immigration policy have been controversial even among conservatives.  What has the reaction to Invasion been, among readers in general and the right in particular?

A: The reaction to the book from readers has been incredible. I get hundreds of fan e-mails and letters every week.  Tips about INS incompetence and corruption continue to pour in.  The reaction from conservative radio and TV hosts, like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh also has been wonderful.

Longtime immigration restrictionists like Derbyshire, Pat Buchanan, Congressman Tom Tancredo, Phyllis Schlafly, Peter Brimelow and Joe Guzzardi of VDARE have also been very positive. Brian Lamb of C-Span was kind enough to give me an hour on his excellent show, "Booknotes". This was the book's only major exposure in the mainstream media. 

 The reaction from most elites has been silence.  There have been no reviews in major newspapers, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. Even my former employers—the Seattle Times and L.A. Daily News—have ignored the book.  Other than Cal Thomas, none of the big-name Beltway newspaper pundits wrote about the book.
 Invasion was one of the most successful conservative books of 2002.  So what accounts for the near-blackout among Beltway elites and in the mainstream media?
Conservative advocates of illegal alien-friendly policies, like Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal and Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute, presumably are aware of the book but may not want to call attention to it, because they know that doing so will generate buzz and boost sales. In addition, I believe that many of my opponents are uncomfortable addressing national security-based arguments against illegal immigration, and would prefer to trot out well-worn pre-9/11 arguments about the economic and social implications of illegal immigration.

 Left-leaning advocates of illegal alien-friendly policies seem not to be aware of the book. In October or late September, Angela Kelley of the National Immigration Forum told a Washington DC radio host she had not heard of Invasion. By that time, the book had already made the New York Times extended bestseller list. I guess it wasn't on her radar screen because it has not been reviewed in any of the big papers; some liberals apparently do not listen to conservative talk radio or watch Fox News or read books published by conservative publishing houses like Regnery.
In most cases, I attribute the silence not to willful neglect or ignorance but to lack of interest. Most editors and pundits, including conservative opinion leaders, simply do not care about illegal immigration, even after 9/11. The chasm between the public and elites on this issue is large and has been documented by survey research (see http://www.cis.org/articles/2002/back1402.html).

Q: What, if anything, did the U.S. do right on border security and immigration last year?  What areas have shown no improvement?

A: There were a few baby steps in the right direction. Information-sharing between the Immigration and Naturalization Service and State Department improved after the attacks. Operation Tarmac weeded hundreds of illegal aliens out of high-security clearance jobs at airports nationwide. The Visa Express program was eliminated. New, but temporary, scrutiny for young, male visa applicants from Middle Eastern countries was introduced. Congress sprinkled a few hundred more border-patrol agents on the frontlines. Immigration officers also received a few more boats, cameras, night goggles, and pepperball guns. The Social Security Administration began cracking down on illegal alien workers with bogus identification.

Meanwhile, temporary visas for Middle Eastern students, tourists, and businessmen remain plentiful; immigrant visas continue to be given away at random or for the right price; the borders remain porous; the welcome mat for illegal aliens is expanding; and the deportation system is in shambles.

Q: Are there are any politicians who are serious about immigration reform?  Name some bright spots.

A: The House Immigration Reform Caucus, chaired by Rep. Tom Tancredo, is serious about immigration reform. A list of its members can be seen at http://www.house.gov/tancredo/Immigration/new_page_1.htm. Tancredo is a beacon of light on this issue. At the local level, public officials such as Virginia Attorney General Kilgore, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver, and Northampton PA District Attorney John Morganelli have stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately, few politicians are willing to join them, even though a large majority of Americans favor enforcement of our immigration laws.

Q: Do you support any immigration reforms unrelated to national security, such as revisiting the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965?

A: Though my recent focus has been national security, I have been writing and warning about the negative social and cultural consequences of illegal immigration for more than a decade. I oppose the whole panoply of benefits that we give to illegal aliens—health care, voting rights, affirmative action, ID cards, and so on—in part because of national security reasons (the more we normalize illegal immigration, the easier it is for terrorists to blend in), but also because I think that welcoming millions of law-breakers has negative social consequences.

Q: A common criticism of people who are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who criticize current immigration policy is that they want to enter the U.S. and shut the door behind them.  Have you encountered this criticism and, if you have, how do you respond to it?

A: Yes, I occasionally hear this. It is a debating tactic, not a serious argument. Some of the strongest opposition to illegal immigration comes from naturalized citizens, many of whom had to wait for years to come here. I have heard from hundreds of immigrants who strongly support my book and my message.

Q: Some have argued that incidents of immigrant criminality and terrorism are not representative of immigrants and foreign visitors as a whole.  Give a brief explanation of why the examples you cite in Invasion represent a large-scale, systematic problem to counter those who argue that they are anecdotal.

A: My book is not about representing immigrants and foreign visitors as a whole. Go read Census statistics and travel brochures if that's what you want to read about. My book is about how lax immigration enforcement undermines our security. What is important about cases like Lee Malvo and Angel Resindez is not merely that they are individual illegal aliens who murdered Americans, but that they are among unknown thousands of illegal aliens who were apprehended and then released by the INS. But for the "catch and release" policy that is standard operating procedure at INS, these criminal aliens would not have been here to commit their bloody crimes.

These policy failures are systemic. My reporting puts a human face on them. When the INS sent a visa to Mohammed Atta six months after 9/11, that was an "anecdote" but it resonated with people because it was emblematic of systemic INS incompetence. In fact, you can argue that 9/11 itself is an anecdote, but we would be very foolish if we did not try to reform the immigration lapses that allowed it to happen.

Q: Explain what you mean by "immigrant profiling."  Is this how you plan to distinguish between those who come to our shores to become Americans from those who come here to do evil?

A: By "immigrant profiling," I mean that we should try to let in people who want to live the American dream, rather than those who want to come here to dishonor our laws or even kill us. In practical terms, that means eliminating or sharply restricting visas to terrorist-sponsoring or terrorist-friendly nations such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. It also means favoring immigrants who respect our laws over line-jumpers whose first act upon entering this country is to violate federal immigration laws.

Q: Invasion isn't the first time you have used your skills as a writer and journalist to call attention to underreported problems.  I remember your columns about Elliot Spitzer's campaign against the supposedly deceptive tactics of crisis pregnancy centers in New York, for example.  Do you have a column or other journalistic enterprise of which you are proudest?

A: Most recently, a column I did on red-diaper baby Chesa Boudin helped raise $12,000 for the O-Grady-Brown Scholarship Fund, in memory of two New York police officers who were murdered by left-wing domestic terrorists. Boudin recently received a Rhodes Scholarship.

I am also proud of the columns I wrote while at the Seattle Times in support of Initiative 200, which repealed race and gender preferences in Washington state hiring, contracting and college admissions decisions. I am also proud of the investigative work I did at the Seattle Times in 1997-98 to uncover egregious campaign finance abuses by the governor, Gary Locke. This is pretty obscure stuff for those who don't live in the Northwest, but click on the following links if you are interested:

W. James Antle III is a senior editor for Enter Stage Right.

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