Napolitano and who gets in - Macleans.ca

Napolitano and who gets in

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It goes without saying that Canadians are frustrated by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s bizarre remark, in that CBC interview, to the effect that the Sept. 11 attackers slipped into the States through Canada. (They didn’t, of course, but the myth persists, as myths have a way of doing.)

But beyond her alarmingly vague grasp of the how 9/11 really happened, I’m wondering about Napolitano’s less blatantly ludicrous comment, “The fact of the matter is that Canada allows people into its country that we do not allow into ours.”

I don’t doubt that’s true. For example, the Obama administration recently decided to stick with the Bush era policy of barring Tariq Ramadan, a leading European Muslim intellectual, from speaking in the U.S. The move suggests, at best, a rather unfocused policy of exclusion.

Ramadan is an interesting character. When he spoke in Ottawa a few years ago, I wrote about how local police were enthusiastic supporters of his visit. They told me he encourages Muslim immigrants in the Canadian capital (where they are a sizeable minority) to integrate with Western society.

Some Americans also apparently regard Ramadan as voice worth listening to. That hotbed of Islamist radicalism, University of Notre Dame, tried to hire him as a religion professor a few years ago, but he was denied the necessary visa.

So, yes, the U.S. definitely keeps out some people Canada allows in.

I know, I know—Napolitano didn’t mean talkers, she meant terrorists. But since terrorists don’t travel on legitimate papers and state their business at customs checks, like Swiss professors do, we have to wonder how effective the U.S. really is at barring them.

Harmless, unsophisticated illegal immigrants, the sort who work as domestics and vegetable pickers, after all, cross the U.S. border in huge numbers. I read here that illegal immigrants in America number nearly 12 million, more than the legal kind. Are the bad guys really less clever about getting in?

And Canada is supposed to be the weak link in continental security?