Saturday, April 08, 2006

Protecting Our Borders

Nathan Smith:

Critics of immigration from the right like to say they support "defending our borders." This is a clever phrase, because it erases the distinction between peaceful workers and invading armies. Every state must defend its borders against invading armies, to protect its citizens' lives and property. But states have generally permitted the entry of peaceful traders, who do not threaten the lives or property of citizens. In any case, they know the difference between the two. By pretending not to understand it, right-wing opponents of immigration may score rhetorical points, but they fail to make the case for the widely-disobeyed laws.

That said; the case for restricting immigration in order to "defend our borders" is more legitimate in the wake of 9/11. America is in no danger of armed invasion from Mexico or Canada, of course -- the idea that Mexican immigrants pose an irredentist threat to the Southwest is sheer fantasy -- but we are threatened by jihadi terrorists, who could potentially filter in across our southern border. If counter-terrorism were the good-faith motivation for our tight border controls, the case for US citizens to cooperate with them would be strong.

But a counter-terror borders policy would look totally different from what we now have. For a start, we would probably permit the unrestricted entry of passport-carrying nationals of Mexico, which is not a terrorist source, and then cooperate with the Mexican government to prevent fraud, and thus prevent a flood of job-seeking migrants from camouflaging terrorist infiltrators. At present, there is not even a pretense that counter-terror is the major motivation for our border controls. The main challenge for applicants for US visas is to prove, not that they have no ties to terror, but that they don't intend to stay and work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a ridiculous argument. People with legitimate business come in through the gate. They don't hire a smuggler and deliberately flout our laws in the dead of night.

When we have 3000 anonymous people crossing our borders every night, it is crazy to consider them anything but a national security risk. 2981 of them might be workers who only want to break our laws for a better life. But the other 19 might have far worse intents. Without stopping them all, how are we to know?

4/08/2006 10:34 AM  

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