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As I See It

Securing the borders requires major commitment

Woke up Sunday morning, looked outside and saw that spring had arrived. Just about everything in my yard was blooming, seemingly overnight. All those blooms and new leaves are breathtaking reminders that no matter how bleak and dreary winter has been, spring is bound to come.

Great day for sneaking across the U.S. border illegally, but then again, every day is suitable for illegal immigrants to cross over into our land of milk and honey. Nothing new here, they’ve been doing it for years. What’s new is the tide of popular opinion turning against our lax control of the borders.

A number of border states have given up on federal action and are taking it upon themselves to tighten up on illegals. They can’t really do much about patrolling the border because that’s clearly a federal responsibility. However, they are striking out in other ways.

Measures under consideration include denying healthcare and driver’s licenses to immigrants who can’t prove they’re here legally. Also under consideration is invoking trespass ordinances to arrest illegals. Several states, including Georgia and Arizona, are considering bills that would penalize employers for hiring “undocumented workers.”

Speculation is that some of these bills will pass this year though it’s doubtful that anything penalizing employers will see the light of day.

Perhaps it’s time to contemplate the immigrant situation. We really have two separate issues to consider regarding illegal immigrants. By far the most important is the danger from terrorists sneaking across our borders and committing atrocities against our citizenry. The other issue is the cost of providing education, healthcare and other government services to non-citizens.

This paranoia about securing our borders is understandable with our country engaged in a war against terrorists who wish to slip into our country and do us harm. However, our absurd commitment to political correctness is rendering our efforts ineffective. We need to be honest enough to admit that the terrorist risk comes from Islamist extremists and watch these folks very closely. We need to quit wasting time and focus on finding the real terrorists.

Now we come to the Mexican problem. Well, let’s admit it, there were no Mexicans among the September 11th hijackers. In fact, it’s been my experience that Mexicans are a hard-working group. They are willing to do the jobs that Americans find too demeaning or exhausting, and then send some money back home to their families. Unfortunately, they do put a strain on our public services and that strain falls disproportionately on the states along the Mexican border.

Further, the lax border control that allows illegals to cross into the U.S. from Mexico could also be used by terrorists who aren’t interested in cleaning chicken houses or planting pine trees.

And, therein lies the problem. We can’t turn a blind eye to illegal Mexicans crossing the border to work without leaving ourselves vulnerable to terrorists or criminals entering by the same route.

I think we should address the problem with two strategies: loosen the immigration laws to allow more Mexican workers to come in legally and then really close the borders. In truth, we need the Mexican workers as much as they need the jobs. Whether you like it or not, there are some jobs that our citizens are just not going to do. For example, we wouldn’t be nearly as far along with Katrina cleanup were it not for Mexican workers on our Gulf Coast.

With legal immigrants at least we could collect some taxes to offset the costs of the public services they consume. It beats what we’ve got now.

Closing the borders is going to be hard and expensive. And, it’s not just the borders that are vulnerable. Shipping containers coming into U.S. ports are hardly checked at all. If I were going to commit an act of terrorism against the U.S., I would send the explosives in through a port rather than risk getting it through airport security. Terrorists are a clever bunch and they have long ago thought of this vulnerability. Still, we do the very minimum in checking incoming freight.

How would we seal the borders? With a lot of cost and tremendous expenditure of manpower, that’s how. Reagan’s “star wars” technology could likely provide sufficient infrared satellite imaging to alert local officials to anything moving across the border. However, we’d have to have guards at close enough intervals to respond to anything picked up by the satellite. Until the satellite technology was refined, we’d likely have border guards chasing some deer and jackrabbits, too. But the cost of freedom is always high.

Perhaps we could dispatch some of our airport security inspectors to the border where they could join hands and block people from crossing over. This would likely be more useful than their current assignment of appearing to apprehend terrorists while inconveniencing hapless Irish travelers.

Thought for the Moment

Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves. — Fredrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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