Well, that concludes our discussion of immigration reform.

Just a few days ago, the prospect of negotiators reaching an unprecedented agreement between the United States and Mexico seemed close. Now, after a few horrific hours on Tuesday, any possible relaxing of our border policy – or anything that even resembles it – is more distant than ever.

Mexican President Vicente Fox said last year that he could see a European-style “open border” between the NAFTA trading partners (the United States, Mexico and Canada) within the next 20 years.

Sorry, Senor Fox. Try 200. Not only can Fox forget about an open border, it is less likely than ever that his more-plausible demand of amnesty for illegal immigrants stands a prayer in Congress.

In the wake of the worst terrorist attack in American history, and perhaps for years into the future, Americans might be persuaded that walling ourselves off from foreigners of any kind is not such a bad idea.

Could it be that we are all Buchananites now? Let’s forget reason and common sense. Let’s ignore the fact that the planes that became missiles took off not from foreign airports, but from American ones, and that it still may be proved that the terrorists immigrated legally to the United States. And of course, let’s put aside that the best evidence now suggests that the culprit behind the attack is Osama bin Laden and not Osama bin Lopez.

Within hours of this savage deed – for which I would agree with other aggrieved and angry Americans, vengeance must be exacted – the U.S.-Mexico border was sealed off.

No problem. There is nothing wrong with a temporary crackdown on international points of entry into the United States as we Americans plot our next move and work through the frustration of wanting to strike back against a shadowy evil.

Indeed, it may be because we have little idea of what we are up against – and frankly, even less of an idea of what we are up for – that many Americans are swinging wildly. Some of the punches are landing on a group that manages to catch blame not only for its own transgressions, but also for those of others.

For those who subscribe to the belief that our nation cannot protect itself because it cannot protect its borders, tragic events have unleashed a flood of pent-up frustrations and fears about a variety of immigrants who are more common to the American Southwest than the Middle East.

Patriotism. Isolationism. Nativism. At a moment like this, all sorts of isms get mixed together. They all popped up in my e-mail on Wednesday morning, the day after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

One reader wrote: “After yesterday, you can forget about your fantasy of blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants. … No one should be rewarded for flagrantly violating our immigration laws and invading our nation.”

Another echoed that sentiment: “The hard-working citizens of the nation will not allow blanket amnesty. In light of yesterday’s tragedy, guess again.”

And another offered this pearl: “You are a parasite. Go back to Mexico. You are no help to us now, but a traitor.”

The website of the extreme Southern California-based group, Voices of Citizens Together, boasted a sarcastic headline that read: “Give me your tired, your poor, your terrorists.”

Keeping with the group’s consistently ethnic-specific (read: anti-Mexican) bent, stories about Tuesday’s attack on New York and the Washington, D.C., area were interspersed with the usual rant about illegal immigration along our southern border.

Note to VCT: Buy a map.

At a moment like this, it is silly for anyone, extremist or not, to question the patriotism of Mexican-Americans, a group that has fought, bled and died for the United States on numerous foreign shores, and who have, along with other Hispanics, received a greater ratio of Medals of Honor than any other ethnic group.

It is sillier that Americans still want to have it both ways when it comes to borders and immigrants. The main reason people violate our southern border is because Americans already “reward lawbreakers” – not with amnesty, but with jobs.

Anyway, if we keep the border sealed, what will we do for nannies? And, if foreigners are, by definition, so dangerous, then why in the world are we handing them our kids? That question – along with all others surrounding Fox’s appeal for open borders – will remain unanswered until the smoke from the attack clears, rhetorical and otherwise.

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