Wanted: Honesty of Purpose

Apparently, conservative Republicans are gearing up for a big Congressional push on "border security", hoping to decouple it from any discussion of immigration liberalization.

I know from my email and comments that many of my readers disagree with my stand for open immigration.  Reasonable people can disagree, but the hypocrisy of the "border security" and its linking to the war on terror really set me on edge.

If you are a "border security" supporter, then say what you mean -- that you want to string a lot of razor wire and enlist the US Army to secure the border from ... poor people looking for a job.  I get email every other day from the "minutemen" who triumph their brave defense of the border.  I will virtually guarantee that they have not found a single terrorist and probably have not found a single person coming over the border solely for criminal intent, and that 100% of their impact has been to set the authorities on people who are looking for work.  Yes I know that foreign born people looking for work in the US without the proper paperwork is currently illegal, but so is speeding and making a rolling stop at a stop sign  (which are, by the way, a lot more dangerous).  The question is, who is being harmed?  To be precise, the government's job is not to "secure the borders" but to "secure its citizens".  Doing so presupposes we can clearly state, "against what?"

Yeah, but what about the terrorists?  Don't make me laugh.  There are so many other, easier ways for a terrorist to get into the US that every terrorist act to date has been committed by people who came through normal border checkpoints and not across the Sonoran desert.  And I have written several times about open immigration would actually make it harder on known terrorists entering illegally, by eliminating the camouflage of other people crossing the desert for them to hide in.  And besides, every plan I have ever seen of late involves a wall along the Mexican border, but nothing along the Canadian border.  A terrorist can sneak over either just as easily, so a plan that was really aimed at terrorism would be putting walls on both borders.

I am sympathetic to the argument that you can't provide full government handouts, err, benefits to everyone who shows up at the border.  So fix the eligibility rules on government benefits, as I suggested in my plan here.

So lets be honest.  If you want border security, lets not pretend that a wall along the Mexican border  is about terrorism or security.  Its about stopping people who were not born in this country from working here.  Though I am opposed to the efforts, it is actually kind of refreshing to see nativist groups going after day labor centers.  This at least represents an honest and open statement of their intentions, that they want to prevent a certain class of people from getting work.

Update: Kerry Howley at Reason has some similar thoughts


  1. Frank Ch. Eigler:

    A lot of pollution other than mexican poor come across the southern border: criminals, drugs, and yes, the occasional saudi. Point taken about the possibly tenuous connection between terrorism and a porous border, but that only goes so far. After all, you can't possibly know the full spectrum of traffic that goes back and forth, by definition. Tightening up entries via airports may logically turn foreign nasties to other ways of entering the states.

    Anyway, realize that as much as you dislike the "border/terrorism" coupling, your "poverty/work/currently illegal" one is just as pink-glassed and thus offensive. It imagines away all the problems and paints the opponents as just wanting to hurt people.

  2. Matt:

    OK, I'm up to the challenge.

    I want border security. But that does _not_ mean that I'm against greatly liberalizing the criteria for legal immigration to the United States. Indeed, anyone wishing to come here for legitimate and lawful purposes, including productive work, should be able to do so. Just as long as they can pass a check sufficiently thorough to keep out our actual enemies.

    If people who SHOULD have nothing to hide, ACTUALLY had nothing to hide, we'd have a much easier time seperating them from the folks who genuinely intend this country serious harm.