War on drugs is not outside our borders

"War Dragnet Nets Drugs" (editorial, Dec. 21) celebrates the shotgun wedding of the war against terrorism and the war on drugs, suggesting they are one in the same, and that increased military and police efforts at our borders will bring us victory in both.

The war against terrorism has foreign enemies as clearly defined as those we defeated in WWII. With smart policies and the coordinated cooperation of most of the world's sovereign nations we can realistically expect significant reduction in acts of terror. But the enemies of the war on drugs are overwhelmingly our own sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and neighbors. The United States (not Russia or China) is now the world's leader in prisoners, with about 2,300,000 children, women, and men behind bars.

An enormous percentage of these prisoners are nonviolent addicts, who will return to our communities with worse addictions than they had before. The suggestion that the US can effectively seal its borders from drug imports is nonsense. Can we stop drugs at our borders? The simple historical and economic answer is no.

Robert Merkin

Northampton, Mass.

Foreign students pass INS with ease

A visa to the United States from most foreign countries requires the applicant to supply references, guarantees, and contacts. This is a process which will usually take weeks, months and, for some, years. Yet with a letter of acceptance for admission from a US college (private, junior, or state) most visa applicants applying for an I-20 visa through an American Embassy circumvent these security requirements and usually receive a visa the same day or the next. With the appropriate credentials any private or public educational facility can offer a foreign national student an acceptance-for-admission letter.

A student visa issued to a foreign national is valid for the duration of their education, whether it be one semester or through the completion of postgraduate work. The only time the student must contact INS is when one plans to leave and re-enter the US. The INS doesn't verify if the student is attending class, or has dropped out, moved, or stayed in the US past completion of their education.

INS will tell you that there are thousands of current violations by foreign nationals presently in the US with I-20 visas. The INS has stated on the record that they do not have the ability, resources, or manpower to monitor the status or whereabouts of most violators. If our government is willing to issue a visa, then it must also be accountable and it must establish a standard of care for the monitoring of these foreign nationals while in the US.

Donald Bronner

West Hollywood, Calif

On punishing John Walker

Regarding "From the streets of Marin to the Taliban" (Dec. 20): John Walker knowingly consorted with those he knew to be enemies of the United States and the American people. That is treason by any definition. While he may not have actively fought the Armed Forces of the US, he did support others who did. It seems to me that Mr. Walker should be punished for his acts as surely as if he had been caught trying to bomb the US.

We cannot tolerate those who would take advantage of our freedoms and then for whatever reason choose to attack them. Too many good men and women have given their lives to protect those freedoms to allow an individual, no matter how misguided, to attack our country and people. Walker should at least lose his citizenship, and this, after having a long stay in a federal prison.

James T. Ripps

Reno, Nev.

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