Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much these days, but the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, and the ranking member, Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, concur there are at least 100 al-Qaida operatives hiding in the United States. Graham says they pose an ‘‘immediate threat'' to our security. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said virtually the same thing in the March 4 Washington Times, warning of terrorist sleeper cells in the United States.
The magnitude of the problem confronting law enforcement officials searching for these killers-in-hiding is revealed by the Department of Justice. Spokesman Dan Nelson says that following the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. authorities arrested 560 terror suspects. Some were released after investigations failed to turn up evidence that would justify their continuing to be held. As of last week, Nelson says 327 remain in detention and under investigation.
Of far greater concern is what Nelson says are ‘‘314,000 absconders,'' people who've been ordered deported but law enforcement cannot find them. These are aliens in the United State illegally because they've violated their visa status. Nelson says deportations will increase as each case is processed. But with 314,000 ‘‘absconders,'' this is bound to be laborious and time-consuming. Can we afford to wait?