The Corner

Like Fish in the Sea

In 1937, Mao wrote in On Guerrilla Warfare about “the relationship that should exist between the people and the troops,” noting that “the former may be likened to water, the latter to the fish who inhabit it.”

The image is as relevant to today’s asymmetric warfare against terrorists and drug cartels as it was to Mao’s war against the Japanese. Large, constantly refreshed and poorly assimilated immigrant communities serve as cover and incubators for our enemies, even though — obviously – most of the people in them are not included among the ranks of those enemies. I was reminded of this by two recent news stories.

The first one is the Somali terrorist attack in Kenya. The New York Times ran a front-page story Thursday entitled “U.S. Sees Direct Threat in Attack at Kenya Mall” that mysteriously avoided the word “Minnesota” in writing about a possible “direct threat” to us. This matters because, as the AP, at least, was willing to report: “Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the U.S. At least 22 young men have traveled to Somalia since 2007 to join al-Shabab…” (A Somali leader in Minneapolis estimated that the real number of Somali Americans joining the terror group is nearly triple that.) This was in a brief item about the Mall of America near Minneapolis, the largest shopping center in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world, which has stepped up its security in the wake of the Kenya attacks. While that may be true of malls everywhere, the Mall of America is a 17-minute drive from the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, aka Little Somalia, and thus the most likely target for a “direct threat” by Somali terrorists in the United States that the NYT wrote about. And the Somali community in Minnesota isn’t just a source of actual terrorists; a number of people have also been jailed for raising money for the terrorist group.

The other item is a long piece in the current issue of Chicago magazine about how that city is the “home port” in the U.S. for the Sinaloa drug cartel. Second only to Chicago’s role as a transportation hub is this reason for the cartel’s choice of Chicago:

Second, the Chicago metro area has a large Hispanic immigrant population, making it easy for Mexican cartel operatives to blend in. (Only Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Houston have more residents of Mexican descent, according to the 2010 census.)

Because many of these immigrants—especially those who are here illegally—are poor or underemployed, the area provides a fertile recruiting ground for cartel operatives.

According to a Cook County law enforcement officer familiar with the local drug trade, the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods, which are more than 80 percent Hispanic, are el eje (the axis) of drug distribution in the city.

It’s tedious but necessary to point out that most Mexicans in Chicago aren’t drug dealers and most Somalis in Minneapolis aren’t terrorists. But continuing to permit high levels of immigration prevents assimilation from draining the water of these communities, as it were, allowing these criminals to continue to swim among their compatriots.

This isn’t new. Anthropologist Francis Ianni wrote that “An era of Italo-American crime seems to be passing in large measure due to the changing character of the Italo-American community” as a result of assimilation. William Kleinknecht notes that “If the mass immigration of Chinese should come to a halt, the Chinese gangster may disappear in a blaze of assimilation after a couple of decades.” When immigrant communities hosted crime organizations focused on gambling or liquor, even women, things forbidden to people by the pezzonovantes in the church, it may not have mattered as much. But under modern conditions of asymmetric warfare, mass immigration represents a significant security threat. There are lots of things we need to do to protect ourselves, but they’re all less effective if we continue to allow mass immigration.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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