A False Sense of Border Security
The GOP has been calling for improved border security which took on a fever pitch since Obama announced his executive action granting amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants last month. Obama’s announcement was a double whammy for the right. By giving a pass to these millions urging them to come out from the cold, Obama trampled upon two sacred cows: the constitutional division of powers and border security.
Predictably, the reaction was swift but ineffective. Shutting down the government was not an option, which proved to be a fatal strategy back in 2013. And challenging Obama’s liberal use of his executive powers through the courts has thus far amounted to a muted protest at the state level and even a vindication for the administration that Obama can play political chess.
And while the noise has risen to a crescendo, the nation’s DMVs meanwhile have been flooded with requests for new drivers licenses.
But last week, the House passed a 10 billion dollar bill that promised to stem the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico. Sponsored by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, the bill calls for a significant enhancement of fencing and improved cross border detection technology. But even before the ink dried, criticism on both sides of the isle came in fast and furious. The consensus seems to be that while the bill’s objectives are clear, it falls short on specifics and could even lead to possible paths for citizenship. The bill on border security, it seems, is full of holes large enough for illegals to keep on coming.
But perhaps the thinking here is all wrong. Short of erecting something like the Berlin Wall, no amount of fencing or even biometrics can keep people who are desperate enough from getting through.
Why not? Because there simply is no draw, no allure as powerful as the promise of freedom. Even during the cold war, some lucky East Germans managed to cross over to the western side at great risk in the hopes of living in freedom. And the same risk-taking goes on today. Cuban refugees routinely brave the waters of the Florida Straits in makeshift boats trying to reach our shores. Just last month Cuba’s Coast Guard sank a boat carrying 32 Cubans who were trying to reach Miami.
The problem with border security is really not about erecting better fences. Rather it’s the reward that freedom offers to those willing to risk it all to break in.
The potential threat of detention and deportation facing illegal immigrants at the borders is just an after thought for those facing daily threats to their personal security in their home countries. No amount of concrete or wire fencing can deter someone seeking refugee from a life of fear and corruption under governments unwilling to protect their citizens. The decision not to enter illegally for these souls is infinitely more risky than whatever Homeland Security can throw at them.
And this is the dilemma that all open societies face when it comes to border control. Unlike dictatorships, which are concerned with maintaining their dwindling supply of people, open societies have the opposite problem. They are in constant demand by outsiders looking for a better life.
But is this a really a problem? Is the border security issue itself a straw man that needs to be torn down?
Imagine you are an employer and have posted a job. You have shortlisted two equally qualified candidates. At the interview, one candidate begins by asking you the questions. She wants to know about salary, benefits, and what the company can do for that candidate. The other one just wants the job and is grateful for being granted the interview. This candidate tells you she is willing to do anything to impress you though hard work and determination. Which candidate would you select?
Now imagine what’s in the head of the typical Mexican illegal or Cuban refugee. You don’t have to imagine. Just look out your window or open your fridge. The skyscrapers, cars, food supplies, technology and all the luxuries we take for granted are all brought to you by immigrants. And if you think that it’s different today; that immigrants aren’t as motivated and ambitious as they used to be. Think again. Immigrants power the majority of Silicon Valley’s innovations and make up its work force. There are countless of historical and present day examples of immigrant success stories.
Who then are we really protecting by trying to keep illegals out by fortifying the borders? I am not suggesting that we abandon border security all together. There are legitimate reasons to screen people such as for criminality. But like an enthusiastic job applicant, all of us benefit from opening the doors to those willing to impress.
About Michael Niren
Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more
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