Monday, March 27, 2006

Build It and They Won't Come

Well, it's been several years since the 9/11 attack, and perhaps time to finally deal with the issue of border security. The issue finally has "legs", as the pundits love to say.

How can you tell the issue has legs? Well, because many Republicans suddenly start acting and thinking like Democrats. A shocking number of ostensibly conservative leaders are suddenly willing to confer citizenship privileges on millions of people -- read "potential voters"-- who have entered this country illegally. And, when Republicans start thinking, talking and acting like Democrats, you know there is trouble brewing somewhere.

Here is the deal: this culture cannot survive if it cannot protect itself from foreign invasion. Sure, I know, the Mexicans only want to make a living. True enough, and honorable enough, in most cases. But, when you see many thousands marching and demonstrating in the streets-- many waving Mexican, not American flags-- demanding "rights" from the rest of us, it can only be because they feel emboldened to do so. A troubling sign in itself.

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It's not that we don't like Mexicans, or foreigners in general. It's that we love the American culture more. And when people can waltz across the border unchallenged, and receive government benefits gratis, live and work in the United States without either having to learn the language or promise fealty, then we cede our culture. When something is free-- residency and citizenship, in this case-- then it has no value. When our ancestors came to this country, in order to be allowed to live here they had to promise to obey our laws. In order to get citizenship, they had to learn the English language, learn our history, and swear loyalty to this nation.

When you can cross the border illegally, and without consequences, and then expect citizenship bestowed upon you without effort, then that citizenship has no value. As such, we become a nation of people who do not value this culture. And our culture dies. Witness what is happening in Europe.

It's a fundamental tenet we learned from childhood: rewarding bad behaviour only begets more bad behaviour.

Two issues loom large in this issue: how to get the right people into this country legally; and how to keep the bad guys out.

A guest worker program certainly has merits. It represents a "try before you buy" sort of concept, much as temporary employment works already in the United States. Do your job well, don't be a jerk, you can stick around permanently.

I do have doubts about the "guest worker" ideas currently proposed. Being a free-market champion, I tend to thing our supposed need for cheap labour is a mistaken notion, and the so-called guest worker programs suggested are really amnesty by another name. More on that subject in a future article.

Even if we can agree on the need for "guest workers", what will make such an immigration program dangerous would be to implement it before securing the border. If we secure the borders first, we can always assess the true need for additional workers-- symptoms such as wage inflation and extremely low unemployment would be very telling indeed. Then, we could open the gates in a regulated and orderly fashion to satisfy legitimate, market demand.

On the other hand, if we allow guest workers now, without secure borders, we will start a modern day equivalent to a the gold rushes of the nineteenth century.

Israel is building a security fence around their country, and where they have completed it, terrorist attacks are virtually non-existent. Walls work. A security fence equipped with and supported by available technology will pinch off the invading inflow to a manageable trickle. Between cameras, networks and flying drones, we can leverage our border patrol enough so they can do their jobs. Add a few attack helicopters and we can change the subject of illegal immigration for good.

As Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbors".

Build it, and they won't come.

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