The Screaming Pen

Providing Global Insight, Context, and Perspective

Espera un Minuto, Mi Compadre

Immigration on the Border (1): Why a Wall & Obstructionism won’t do, but the National Guard Will

As long ago as August 2004 there were reports of U.S. officials apprehending Syrians along the border. A prosaic statement you might say, except for that we are not here talking about Iraq, but New Mexico and Arizona. Admittedly, much of the hype surrounding Middle Eastern terrorists infiltrating the U.S.-Mexico border comes from minutemen groups. Yet combined with Senator Norm Coleman‘s (R-MN) announcement that government officials smuggled “enough radioactive material to make two dirty bombs” into America, it can only be hoped that the revelation causes alarm.

Terrorism is just one part of the broader debate about immigration though, the crux of which is two-fold: what to do about securing the border, and how to deal with those illegal immigrants presently inside the country (see Immigration at Home). Regarding the first, the potential link between illegal immigration and terrorism leads to the conclusion that securing the border is an absolutely vital concern. Moreover, as the current border control system is flagrantly incapable of doing so – evidenced by the estimated 11 million illegals that have already bypassed it – whatever method is most effective should be implemented.

 You know me, VIP, no ID, bottles in DP, I do it B-I-G

You know me, no I.D., drinking D-P, I do it B-I-G

Some suggest erecting a wall. Make it a hundred feet tall, replete with a moat, razor wire, spotlights, and attack dogs. But while such a barrier would be effective in theory, it conjures up images of Palestine and Berlin pre-1989 and is certain to provide America-bashers with plenty of useful PR.

Tonight, President Bush will propose in his primetime address that the National Guard “temporarily” assist the overwhelmed Border Patrol with its duties. Combined with steps to legalize those already in the United States and expedite the visa process (see forthcoming second article), this is a positive prescription. It would minimize the awkwardness caused by the petulant (and sometimes violently extrajudicial) minutemen militias and help deal with the onerous strain of illegal immigration on public infrastructure and slippery terrorist, drug smuggling, and criminal operations. The protests of Mexican President Vicente Fox can be overcome and he will soon be gone from office anyway.

The Guard’s being streched too thin due to other responsibilities is a legitimate concern, and military planners will have to work out the details. But eliminating the billions of dollars of pork that Congresspeople squander every year on pet projects would be a start and help free up valuable resources. Yet critics on both the left and the right frequently assert that it’s not the National Guard or U.S. military’s “role” to play grab ass along the border.

This argument, however, is categorically flawed. To begin with, almost every other country in the world – most of them with military expenditures a mere fraction of the half trillion dollars the U.S. Defense department consumes annually – uses it military to defend its territory. Additionally, the U.S. military already does patrol borders: in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, and elsewhere. Yet even holding these factors aside, previous transformations of the military haven’t been rejected simply because they would redefine its purpose; witness the Rumsfeld Doctrine and the “revolution of military affairs”. These shifts may be either celebrated or discredited but in both cases they are so judged based on their merits, not merely because they alter the status quo.

Ironically, the United States is the victim of its own success. Throughout the country’s history – stemming originally from the founders experience with the devastation standing armies had brought to Europe – Americans have rightly been wary of granting the military power at home. Two broad oceans and usually amicable neighbors made this possible. The presently broken system and the real danger it poses to U.S. security, however, make obstructive axioms about the military’s role inappropriate and unhelpful. The United States must know who is crossing its borders, and if the National Guard is best suited to monitor the border then it should be given the task.


 2006. All rights reserved.

May 15, 2006 Posted by | Author: DML, Democrats, Immigration, Latin America, Mexico, North America, Politics, The GOP, United States | 3 Comments