If you think you don’t live in a border state, you’re probably mistaken. That’s because 95 percent of all Americans do: Every state that has an international airport is a border state, and over 150 million foreign visitors arrive at those airports each year.

You think 500,000 or 800,000 illegal aliens crossing our southwest border illegally might pose a security risk? Then you should also think about the tens of millions of foreign visitors arriving at our international airports each year without a visa.

Not possible, you say? Wrong, again.

Citizens from 38 foreign countries enjoy the freedom to enter the United States without a visa through “visa waiver agreements” with those countries. Most of the countries are in Europe, but the list also includes Taiwan, Singapore, Chile and Australia. People using the visa waiver program must also pass through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), meaning they are not known to be terrorists and not on any “no-fly list.”

The purpose of the visa waiver program, obviously, is to encourage and facilitate international tourism, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the program’s most enthusiastic advocates. Other newly enthusiastic supporters of the visa waiver program are Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida and ISIS.

Since the U.S. government has not yet managed to acquire the alumni lists for the many terrorist training programs across the globe, we really do not have a good list of “known terrorists.” Mohammad Hussein Al-Fatah is more likely to be on a “no-fly list” for owing child support than for participation in a six-month terrorist training camp – especially if he is a Canadian citizen.

Americans must wake up to the fact that a veteran of the ISIS military operations in Syria or Iraq – or al-Qaida operations in Yemen, Somalia or Libya – who holds a valid United Kingdom or French or Greek passport is probably not going to be denied entry to the United States. That trained, experienced, motivated terrorist is free to travel to Tampa, Dallas, Salt Lake City or any American city with an airport. He may be visiting a shopping mall or NFL game near you soon.

Yes, it is true that terrorists will lie on visa applications and use fake ID and documents to gain entry to any country. But why make it easier for them to get here? Without the visa requirement, they do not risk being detected or rejected. All they need is a valid passport from one of our “visa waiver partners” and they are free to travel to Los Angeles or Chicago, or maybe Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando or St. Louis. Probably both the white and black residents of Ferguson, Missouri, would rather not see that particular brand of outside agitator.

So, what is the point of this excursion into the vulnerabilities of the visa waiver program? Do we want to shut down all foreign travel? No, of course not. But we do want our lawmakers and government agencies to start taking these problems seriously and stop dismissing them as far-fetched. As for the tourism industry – our hotel and restaurant associations, for example – they ought to think about the fate of international tourism if this problem isn’t confronted until after a bloody catastrophe.

It also means all of us need – urgently – to change our thinking about the “border crisis.” Our border crisis is not in Texas or Arizona; it is in Washington, D.C. Our border crisis is in the naïve and short-sighted way the officials of both political parties think about the national security aspects of both physical borders and immigration law.

The solution is simple in concept but admittedly difficult to implement. National security must be understood not as “one aspect” of immigration policy but as the most important element of sound immigration policy. It must cease being a neglected afterthought and become a cornerstone.

We can hope it does not take a suicide bomber at a Major League Baseball game or trade association convention who entered our country on a Danish or Chilean passport before Congress and the State Department develops effective screening tools for international travelers. Unless we act swiftly, those hundreds of Europeans who fought for ISIS and the Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq will be fighting for the glory of Allah in the streets of San Francisco, Atlanta and Baltimore.

Concerned about the impact of illegal aliens on the United States? Don’t miss Tom Tancredo’s book, “In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security” — and with your purchase get a free copy of “Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders”!

Media wishing to interview Tom Tancredo, please contact [email protected].

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