What would you call it if a neighboring country used its military forces to escort illegal border crossers, including drug-runners, to border areas known to be less secure?

I’d call it an act of war.

And that’s what the Mexican government stands accused of doing this week – not just by the Minuteman Project President Bush derides as a “vigilante” movement, but by Border Patrol officers and elected U.S. officials.

President Bush still has a little time to save face – though it is slipping away quickly.

He can change directions, admit that the Mexican border poses the No. 1 national security threat to the United States and take definitive action to secure it, or he can face the almost certain risk of a major terrorist attack on this country with the border providing the entry point.

There are simply no other choices for Bush.

The “cheap labor” argument no longer holds water – not when we are squandering billions on ineffectual homeland security provisions that are rendered meaningless by the openness of the border.

Members of the president’s own party in Congress are the whistleblowers on this latest outrage. He can’t blame partisan politics. The president’s support on every other issue of importance to his administration depends on a quick reversal of his misguided border policies.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, had some harsh but appropriate words for Bush’s blindness to the border threat:

The president of Mexico is threatening to sue any member of the Minuteman who have contact with a Mexican national, threatening to take the U.S. into the International Court of Justice at the Hague over the passage of Prop 200 in Arizona, and is providing transportation to Mexican nationals trying to sneak into the U.S. … One could say he is acting in the best interest of his nation. Isn’t it unfortunate we cannot say the same thing about President Bush?

Border Patrol sources say the Mexican army recently moved about 1,000 troops to the Agua Prieta region, just south of where the Minutemen are. These troops, the sources say, are diverting all of the illegal alien and drug-smuggling traffic away from the Minutemen.

Only dramatic action by Bush can save his presidency from disgrace.

He needs to place troops on the border to supplement Border Patrol agents. He needs to support congressional efforts to hire 10,000 more Border Patrol agents over the next five years. And he needs to work with Congress on a bill to seal the entire Mexican border with a security fence.

Those should be the minimal conditions Congress requires even for discussion of the president’s misguided call for a “guest-worker” amnesty program.

Even if the nation were not facing an imminent threat from cross-border terrorism, this would be the only responsible course of action. But today, after what Americans witnessed Sept. 11, 2001, we all recognize the next attack could be far worse.

It’s time for Bush to admit he was wrong – that he made a mistake, that he miscalculated the threat the open border represents.

Yes, he will open himself to criticism by those who will never support him. But he can still win back the tens of millions of responsible Americans who only want what is best for this country.

Time is running out for the Bush administration and the future of his party.

If Republicans don’t provide Americans with an alternative and responsible immigration and border policy, the party will go the way of the Whigs and the Bull Moose Party.

The clock is ticking and the bomb that will doom the Republicans and destroy the Bush legacy and kill untold numbers of Americans could go off at any moment.

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