Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Secure borders in three easy steps

Jerry Stratton, June 14, 2007

The latest failed immigration bill not only failed to satisfy enough voters, it failed to convey any coherent message. Its 380 pages contained enough to both satisfy and repel anyone.

I’m going to address security, and I’m going to define security as keeping terrorists out or ensuring that they are unable to carry weapons of mass destruction in. If our goal is security, there are three simple steps to making our border more secure. Security means keeping people with bombs out. It doesn’t mean keeping families out. It doesn’t, for that matter, mean keeping pot out.

We need to separate the good from the bad, and we want to make the bad less effective. And we ought to be able make it a whole lot simpler than a 380 page bill that no one seemed to understand on either side of the debate.

  1. End the drug war. The drug war means corruption. It means that people benefit from looking the other way when criminals cross borders. It means that when someone tries to bypass border security, it is possible to assume that they are doing so for money and not for terrorist attacks.
  2. Open the gates to anyone who can pass an instant check. If we allow anyone in through the gates assuming they pass a background check, then we can know that everyone who doesn’t want to come through the border isn’t going to pass a background check.
  3. Close the borders. After we remove the incentive for immigrants to cross the border illegally, we can assume that those who still attempt to bypass the gates are doing so for nefarious reasons.

I’ve complained before about how prohibition undermines democracies overseas, and how it nurtures terrorists overseas. But it also has the potential to affect us directly right here at home. Billions of dollars cross the border every year. That kind of money corrupts officials on both sides of the border. If we end prohibition, there is less money for bribery and there is far less incentive for coercion and other forms of corruption both at the border and within the governments and law enforcement on both sides of the border.

If we open the gates to anyone who wants to come through, then not coming through the gates is a sign of trouble. This doesn’t just affect law enforcement but also bystanders who might otherwise stand aside. They will no longer be able to assume that it’s just some farm workers coming over. Once we remove the requirement that good people sneak through the border if they want to come to the United States, and once we remove the incentive to let bad people sneak across the border, attempts to lock down the border will be more successful. There will be fewer people attempting it, and those who do it will have fewer resources to evade capture.

Further, if we let anyone enter, then they won’t be afraid to go home again. If they only need to be here three months out of the year, they will be able to leave when those three months are up without fear of not being able to return next year.

Why a background check? The problem with requiring an immigrant ID is that it will either be ineffective or it will have to become part of a national ID. So while some form of ID will probably be part of the solution, a single ID that everyone must carry should not be the solution.

One solution is a background check system similar to that used for firearms purchases. I tend to agree with GOA, that the NICS for gun owners is bad policy. But I can understand the NRA’s support for the NICS as well, that there is going to be some database, and if it isn’t going to be a database of gun owners, it has to be a database of people who aren’t allowed to buy guns. Similar reasoning follows for illegal immigrants. If we don’t want to create a national ID card for everyone and require all of us to show it to law enforcement on request, then we need to have some way of identifying people who shouldn’t be here rather than people who should.

Regardless of how that works, however, these two steps—ending the drug war and opening the gates—are necessary if we want to effectively block terrorists and other violent criminals at the border. Modern prohibition ensures that billions of dollars are available for bypassing border restrictions; American opportunities ensure that millions of workers want to cross, too. If we stop worrying about them, we can focus our attention on real problems.

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