[This review was published in the Winter 2006 issue of The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, pp. 489-493.]


Book Review 


In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security

Tom Tancredo

WND Books, 2006 


            Congressman Tom Tancredo has earned a preeminent place among those who oppose massive illegal immigration into the United States.  He has for several years been the leader in the U.S. House of Representatives in seeking remedial measures to stop the flood.  During much of that time, continuing into the present, he has experienced the hostility of a president of his own party and of the Republican leadership in both branches of Congress.  It seemed for a time that his voice might be joined by many others when in December 2005 the House voted a major reform bill (which, however, did not receive the concurrence of the Senate and never became law).  But Tancredo says the groundswell in the House has come to appear illusory: “Many backers of the initiatives turned out to be fair-weather supporters.”

            Tancredo has colleagues who admire and support him, but he has trenchant criticisms to make of many politicians and officeholders in light of his experience with them.  It is a telling commentary on conditions within “the world’s greatest democracy” when he reports that, “Sometimes it has seemed to me as if far too many folks seeking elective office do so primarily because they want to be in the office.  Once they decide which office they want, they then construct the belief system and rhetoric they believe they need to get it.  Once elected, they spend the rest of their time figuring out what they have to do, say, and think in order to keep it.”   He adds that “members of both parties work together to advance selfish goals on behalf of special-interest groups and businesses….”

            This relates to one of Tancredo’s larger points.  He sees an “internal decay, a loss of identity, and a de-emphasis on the value of American citizenship.”  This, of course, touches on something much broader, more pervasive, than just the issue of immigration.  But that more general decay gives rise, he says, to a threat to the United States’ existence by encouraging and condoning a massive invasion by those foreign to American culture.  He sees the ideology of “multiculturalism” that prevails among America’s elite as a “radical cult” which amounts, in effect, to “a malignancy that essentially opposes the idea of a common culture.”  Among that ideology’s devotees, the older ideal of a “melting pot” that centered on assimilation into a uniquely American culture has given way to a welcoming of “ethnic diversity,” with each ethnicity (other than that of Euro-Americans) cultivating its own self-conscious identity and quest for cultural and political power.  The impending result: the clear possibility of “balkanization,” profoundly fragmenting the country.  Since Americans are doing this to themselves through the interplay of several factors, Tancredo thinks it fair to place much of the responsibility upon Americans in general: “We are committing cultural suicide.”  (Even though he says “we,” he knows  that “the majority of average Americans” oppose the demographic invasion, and are a party to the suicide only by virtue of their subservience to forces that they allow to be larger than themselves.)

            In Mortal Danger reviews many of the facts about immigration into the United States since the 1965 Immigration Act opened the door to the Third World, and it discusses many of the shibboleths that undergird that policy, including that “they are doing jobs Americans won’t do” (to which he responds that Americans won’t do the jobs only because the pay offered is so low); that “the immigrants contribute more to the United States than they cost” (which leads him to discuss the costs of education, incarceration, cheap labor’s impact on the job market, social services, health care, imported disease, and environmental impact); that “we’re a land of immigrants” (which prompts him, himself the son of Italian immigre parents, to say, in effect, “yes, we are; but a nation that heretofore has encouraged all to blend into a shared culture”); and that “only ethnics can speak for ethnics” (which he considers “a very dangerous attitude”).

            But these things are discussed in a good many other books available to those Americans who will read them.  The unique value of Tancredo’s book lies in the fascinating (and important) specifics he relates.  Among them:

            1.  Tancredo tells of a recent visit he made to the Detroit area.  He found that “there are at least sixty mosques and 130,000 Muslims.”  It appeared that “little assimilation has occurred.  Dearborn had the look of a spruced-up Islamabad.  While we stood on a street corner, we listened as the call to prayer went out over loud speakers on minarets all over the city.  Every sign on every building was written in Arabic.”

            2.  When Tancredo went to speak to classes at East Denver High School (from which, by coincidence, this reviewer and two earlier generations of his family graduated), he walked into a maelstrom of student hatred toward the United States: “The information they had been provided up till then was politically correct nonsense that avoided any possible complimentary reference to America… These students knew why they hated this country.  The comments were filled with vitriol and animosity.  To them, America was beset with racism, sexism, chauvinism, and just about every other ism that has a negative connotation.”  (Tancredo’s experience was the same as this reviewer confronted about five years ago when he spoke to a group of Kansas’ top high school graduates in a summer workshop at Wichita State University.)

            3.  As a Congressman, Tancredo represents the district south of Denver in which Columbine High School is located.  That high school, it may be recalled, was the site of the “Columbine massacre” in which two intensely alienated students went on a killing rampage.  After Chechen terrorists conducted a much larger massacre at a school in Beslan, Russia, Tancredo traveled to that city as something of a cultural ambassador to represent his constituents’ heartfelt empathy for the victims and their families in Beslan.  (His wife had taught Russian-language classes for 27 years, and the two of them had made almost a dozen trips to Russia, so they weren’t strangers to the scene.)  Tancredo’s description of what had happened at Beslan is chilling: “While security forces surrounded the school… the terrorists executed all the adult males—in front of the children… Video released by the terrorists showed the hostages herded into the gymnasium, where terrorists had strung explosives from the basketball hoops and positioned them over the children.”  Continuing, he says that “the gym was only about forty feet by eighty feet.  Into that small space the terrorists stuffed more than a thousand people for fifty-eight hours.  From there we were shown where a cluster of terrorists had held out until three shells from a tank killed them.  Then we were taken to a spot where two female terrorists blew themselves up as the shooting began.  Our guides showed us the site where townspeople had captured one of the terrorists and beat him to death before hanging his body… We next visited the cemetery and saw six hundred newly dug graves.”

            4.  Tancredo tells about Beslan both for its own sake and as an example of the danger the world is in from radical Islam.  But it also has a clear bearing on his discussion of immigration, which includes a deep concern about America’s security.  It is readily apparent that a de facto open border across which millions pass is, in this post-9/11 world, a clear invitation to terrorists to enter.  There are some striking specifics that Tancredo says are not communicated to the public by the national government or the media.  U.S. and Mexican authorities are well aware of suspected training camps… a few miles across the Rio Grande.”  The camps “are operated by the Zetas, a group of former Mexican military special forces troops who deserted in the mid-1990s to work as highly effective enforcers for the drug cartels.”  He says “the training camps are frequented by a variety of ethnic groups, including Arab and Asian nationals… In March 2006, FBI director Robert Mueller Jr. told a House appropriations subcommittee hearing that the FBI had broken up a smuggling ring organized by the terrorist group Hezbollah that had operatives cross the Mexican border to carry out possible terrorist attacks inside the United States.”  Tancredo notices that “the FBI did not inform the Congress or the American public about Hezbollah’s activities in Mexico at the time they were uncovered and disrupted… Instead, the news was buried in routine testimony.  The second interesting facet of this statement is that it was not considered ‘newsworthy’ by the mainline news media….”

            While it does not involve Islamists, Tancredo reveals that there have been a number of armed incursions into the United States both by the Mexican army and by a system of irregulars under the control of corrupt Mexican officials.  A sheriff in a border county reports that one night a rancher saw “a group of approximately thirty men dressed in black and marching in twos.  The first two men and the last two carried automatic weapons while the rest lugged large duffel bags….”   When nineteen of the men were apprehended, the sheriff “was stunned to learn that they had almost immediately been returned to Mexico.”  The larger picture indicates that “in recent years, suspected Mexican paramilitary and military units, loyal to the drug cartels, have made repeated armed incursions into the United States—all with the knowledge of our government.  The Department of Homeland Security has documented 231 incursions from 1996 to 1005 involving Mexican military, state, or municipal police units.”

            Many of these incursions, Tancredo says, are by Mexican army units per se.  There is, in addition, a system of proxies who act under orders from government officials.  This is the “Madrinas” system.  Officials appoint men as functionaries who “are an arm of the government but not officially part of the government.”  As irregulars, “Madrinas are not listed on any personnel roster, draw no salary, and get no benefits, but they act as if they are government employees.  They often wear uniforms… Government officials who use Madrinas to do their dirty work have ‘plausible deniability.’”   The compensation to Madrinas comes through “’mordida,’ or bribes, they collect, of which they get to keep a part.

            Thus, we see that In Mortal Danger adds much to the growing literature on the immigration issue.  As a member of Congress who has taken a leading role on the issue, he is in a position to know a great deal that most of us don’t.  This review has, needless to say, cited only a sampling of the information Tancredo has to impart.  

                                                                                                                                                                                Dwight D. Murphey