Friday, July 20, 2007

Immigration the hard way

Every day brings a new immigration story. People will do just about anything to get into the US, dead or alive.

Yesterday a 50-something Chinese man hid inside the nose wheel well of a 747 that left Beijing for San Francisco. He knew it was going to be cold: he had on several layers of clothing. And he knew enough about the nose gear to avoid getting crushed during the gear up operation. But he didn’t make it alive; probably succumbing to asphyxiation or hypothermia. At least he didn’t fall, like many do.

I have a couple of questions about this. What kind of security would allow a person first to get onto the ramp, then climb up and into the plane, without ever being detected? And who could possibly think that, after running that gauntlet and making a safe passage, which by the way the FAA estimates only 16 stowaways have done in the last 60 years out of 75 known attempts, the stowaway could get away with climbing down the nose gear, getting off the ramp, and getting through security upon landing.

Want to come as a stowaway to the US? You’ll have much better odds on a ship.

According to the International Maritime Organization, of the 657 stowaways who attempted passage by ship last year, one third were allowed to stay, and only one died. By the way, in more than half the cases, the IMO had no idea where the stowaways got on board. And of the rest, the number one country where stowaways did get on board? Afghanistan. Not bad for a land-locked country.

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