Syndicated columnist and TV pundit Michelle Malkin has been waging war for over a decade. Before 9/11, when immigration was low on the priority lists of most Americans and open borders were seen more as a racial than a security issue, her fight was a thankless, and often lonely, one. Now that immigration and national security are acknowledged (sometimes grudgingly) by most serious people to be two sides of the same coin, her battle has been joined, and vindicated.
Malkin was born in Philadelphia to Filipino parents. Though she had worked on her high-school newspaper, opinion journalism was far from her mind when Malkin left New Jersey for Oberlin College: She wanted to be a concert pianist, and it was Oberlin’s excellent music program that brought her there. “I soon realized that I couldn’t cut it with piano,” she explains modestly. “I wrote for the regular student-run weekly and ended up majoring in English.”
While Malkin was at Oberlin, a new independent paper was founded by a student who is now Malkin’s husband, with help from the Collegiate Network. “I joined up with them, and my first piece, which I teamed up with my now-husband to write, was on affirmative-action policies on campus. It was a moderate, rather tepid report. It was seeing the violent paroxysms it caused on the Left that really put me on my way to a career in opinion journalism.”
After college, Malkin went to D.C. to work as an intern for NBC. After that, the Los Angeles Daily News took her on as an editorial writer. “That’s really where I cut my teeth as a journalist,” says Malkin. “Not only were we writing editorials, we were also sent out to do reporting. We would go out and report on school-board meetings, and then turn around and editorialize about it.”
Two years after their marriage in 1993, Malkin and her husband, a Rhodes scholar, moved up to Seattle, where she had been hired by the Seattle Times. Malkin stayed with the Times until 1999, which is when her national syndicated column launched. Now, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two-year-old daughter (who, according to her mother, has just learned to say “fair and balanced”).
Malkin has come a long way since butting heads with the campus Left. Her twice-weekly syndicated column now appears in about 100 papers across the country. Although she admits to being uncomfortable with the “all-around punditry,” Malkin accepts it as “part of being a journalist in the 21st century.” She makes the rounds of the network-news channels, and is a regular on Fox News.
Malkin is so much in demand because she has remained dedicated to serious journalism. She breaks stories in her column regularly. An example is a column late last year on John Lee Malvo, the D.C. sniper’s accomplice, who, Malkin discovered, had entered the U.S. illegally with his mother, and was caught and released by the INS.
Asked how long it takes to write her column, Malkin says: “After having spent more than a decade pounding out editorials and columns, I don’t even think about it anymore. But some will take me a month to research and write, others naturally flow in 45 minutes. I’m one of those agonizers. I’ll write the column in 45 minutes, but spend the next three hours fiddling and polishing — changing the lead, switching paragraphs around . . .” On deadline days, her daughter has playgroup, giving Malkin the precious hours between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. to make phone calls, do research, and write. After that, she says, “I’m mom.”
How does a political reporter and editorialist like Malkin get the inside scoop from the comfort of her home in Maryland? “If I need to meet with sources or talk to people for a story, I prefer to use the phone. I try to avoid the beltway as much as possible. It’s not my scene.”
Despite the popularity of her column, Malkin detects a double standard among op-ed-page editors: “Unfortunately, a lot of editorial-page editors don’t want me writing about those issues [immigration, national security] every week. There’s a real double standard: You can be on the left with a crusade (feeding the poor, homelessness, etc.) and write about it endlessly, like Bob Herbert, and nobody sees you as crank. They see you as a passionate advocate for a cause. But if you choose the wrong topic to crusade on, they see you as a crank, even if you’re constantly bringing new information to the table. It’s like, ‘There she goes again.’” As a result, Malkin, who writes two articles per week, does one “hard news” piece, and one “more traditional op-ed column.”
In her book Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores, released last year from Regnery, Malkin compiles statistics and offers examples of the gaping holes in America’s immigration system. Those who have read the book, or who have read widely in her considerable archive, will know that it is no exaggeration to say that Invasion is the sort of stuff that keeps one up at night.
Malkin has delved into government archives, interviewed agency insiders, and in other ways ferreted out hundreds of cases of government ineptitude, as it relates to immigration and national security. She has broken stories that INS and State Department bureaucrats would prefer to shove under a rug.
Take the example of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who was known by the State Department to be involved in anti-American activities abroad. He entered the U.S. numerous times on a religious visa and eventually applied for and received asylum, and then citizenship. He went on to mastermind the first attack on the World Trade Center, and was convicted for his involvement. Even now, he hasn’t been stripped of his citizenship.
Head-in-the-sand types, when they hear stories such as these, counter that they are isolated cases, and that it is unfair to scare people into believing this sort of thing is widespread. (Of course, they don’t apply this same reasoning to the poster children whom the ACLU and the “ethnicity lobby” use to convince Americans that we live in a Hitlerian regime.) But Malkin is ready with statistics — hair-raising ones — to prove them wrong.
First, there are the astronomically high numbers of immigrants who come into America, legally and illegally (an estimated 9.11 million live here currently). The stunning numbers of illegal aliens waved blithely into the U.S. are surpassed in scandalousness only by a second set of numbers Malkin marshals: Namely, the paltry forces tasked with keeping them out. For example, fewer than 400 border-patrol agents are assigned to the 4,000-mile border between Canada and the U.S. — less than one agent for every ten miles. At night, when border areas close, they put up orange cones to keep illegals from entering.
If it were not so tragic, the laxness could almost be funny. Invasion tells of illegal aliens suing the U.S. for not providing water coolers on the route into the country, and James Ziglar, the former INS commissioner, is responsible for the “rescue beacons” with flashing lights and alarm buttons illegals can activate should they fall into trouble on their way over. Malkin writes, “We don’t have borders. We have the world’s longest back-door welcome mats.”
In her various writings, Malkin has shed light on another threat within our borders: The strong illegal-immigrant and ethnicity lobbies that make it their business to get as many immigrants — legal or illegal — over the border to strengthen their ranks. And then there’s the scandal of the immigration lawyers, who profit from helping illegal aliens game the system.
Malkin’s book, and her many articles and columns, form a hall of shame of sorts — not just of the criminals and terrorists who make their way here, but also of the American officials at State and the INS who are most responsible for letting them in.
A lot of people — State Department and INS officials, immigration lawyers, “unreconstructed open-borders advocates,” and the like — would love to see Malkin go away. But she’s here to stay, fortunately. That hall of shame will keep expanding, and we’ll have Malkin to thank for keeping tabs.