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Responsible immigration security a balancing act

April 07, 2005|by TIM RO`

Upon my return to this great country, I was gratified to see that federal immigration agents had waxed the House of Kobe, keeping us safe from tempura for yet another year.

All we know at this point is that the feds stormed the popular restaurant and hauled away seven people.

They didn't say why.

The feds never do, but in the olden days that didn't bother me too much. They would swoop mysteriously in here or there and pluck out a few guys, but you always figured they had a good reason and were making the world a safer place.

But now under the "Patriot" Act, you don't know what's going on. The feds can go anywhere and do anything for any reason and don't have to tell anyone squat. Just that it's a matter of "homeland security," so butt out.

It's possible, maybe even probable, they had good cause.

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I do know there has been widespread concern about the violent MS-13 gang, of late. But as far as I know, MS-13 members are mostly from Central America, so there is hardly any tie to an Asian restaurant - unless this is a little-known offshoot, the MSG-13.

Most likely, they were in the country under unclear circumstances, where they were engaged in the business of - and if this isn't a reason for deportation, nothing is - working for a living.

I just finished reading the excellent Kevin Baker novel "Dreamland," so pardon me for being misty-eyed over immigrants, but I have a real hard time getting angry with people who come here and work their fingers to the bone so they can get a little something for themselves and their children. Personally, I prefer the leisure that comes with poverty, but if they want to sweat and toil and make a success of themselves, that is none of my concern.

I know the Department of Homeland Security is just doing what it feels it has to do, but somehow I don't feel any more secure knowing that the Kobe 7 is no longer in our midst. Dudes: Catch bin Laden, then you can go after all the sandal-wearing fry chefs you want, but in the meantime don't try to make up the difference by raiding the fridge.

It just seems like overkill. Like the guy ahead of me at the airport who had his cigarette lighter confiscated. Of course, it would sound silly to tell him he had to give up his Bic lighter, so they said, no lie, "Sir, you are not allowed to get on the plane while carrying a butane torch."

Right, and a nail file is a machete.

Granted, the job of immigration officer can be a hard one, and as evidence I point to our return to the same airport where the highly-serious, no-nonsense, tough-as-nails customs agent had to face off with the friendliest, chattiest person the world as ever known, the Frequent Flier in High Heels.

"Ma'am, do you have anything to declare?"

"Oh hi, how are you?"

"Do you have anything to declare?"

"Love that tie. Do I declare what now?"

"Did you buy anything?"

"Oh yes, I got the funniest wooden alligator for my mom. Well actually, the man said it's half alligator, half crocodile, but it's really cool, kind of like those - well, have you ever seen the ..."

"Anything else?"

"What?"

"Did you buy anything else?"

"Well, we got Alexa a T-shirt, green, with a dancing guy in big shoes ..."

"All right, never mind. Where did you stay?"

"At the greatest place, it's called the Sandals Resort, you'd love it, all white beaches, the food could have been better, but they had this dessert, oh my God, it was ..."

At this point the anguish on the officer's face compelled me to break in.

"Uh, honey? I think he means what city did we stay in."

But by this time the damage had been done. He couldn't wave us through fast enough. He gave us a clipped "Have a good day" and waved us through fast as he could.

I'd learned a valuable lesson though. If I ever have a wheelbarrow full of cocaine that I want to bring into the country, I'm making sure Andrea comes along.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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