“Secure the Border”: Politician-Speak for “I’m a Tyrant Who Thinks You’re an Idiot”

East German construction workers building the ...
East German construction workers building the Berlin Wall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About 30 years ago, in southern California, US Border Patrol officers pulled over the vehicle I was riding in to search for “illegal immigrants.” They carefully checked the ID of each occupant in the vehicle. Yes, all 30 or so of us. The vehicle was a bus marked “US Marine Corps” on the side. All its occupants were Marines in uniform.

That was during Ronald Reagan’s first term; in the Republican primary debates in 1980, Reagan and his eventual vice-president, George HW Bush, had worked diligently to outdo each other in their support for open borders. My, how times have changed.

Given the widespread moral panic and bedwetting security theatrics over “illegal immigration” that characterize the last two decades,  I shudder to think how much worse life must have become on the southern US border since then, especially for Americans and immigrants of Hispanic descent.

When I hear a candidate for office quack about “securing the border,” I dismiss that candidate as unworthy of my vote or support. So should you.  At best, that candidate is an idiot; more likely he or she is a demagogue who assumes YOU are an idiot.

The United States has more than 100,000 miles of border and coastline, across which more than 500 million people (350 million of them non-citizens), 118 million vehicles and 22.5 million cargo containers travel each year. No, I didn’t make those numbers up — I got them from the people in charge of “securing America’s borders,” US Customs and Border Protection.

It’s true that the US border with Mexico is “only” about 1,950 miles long, but it’s also irrelevant. Even if that border could be sealed — and it can’t be — unauthorized traffic across it would just take to the seas. If you don’t believe me, go ask a Cuban or Chinese “illegal immigrant.”

Attempts to “secure the border” can only have two consequences:

First, they can increase the likelihood of terror attacks and so forth by creating a sea of “illegal aliens” and a lucrative industry based on getting them into the US. Actual terrorists and other evildoers become invisible in that sea and have at their disposal an illicit travel industry that would not exist absent the large demand created by “border security” nonsense.

Second, they can turn the US into a police state like East Germany. In fact, they have arguably already done exactly that to the southern border zones. It’s worth remembering that the East Germans were never really able to “secure their border” either, thank God.

And yet candidates of both major parties for all elective offices continue to publicly pay obeisance to the dumb and evil notion of “securing the borders.” Why? Because they think you want them to.

Prove them wrong. Vote Libertarian.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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  • Some advocates of greater anti-immigration efforts may be evil, many may just be ignorant. Educating people about unintended consequences and perverse incentives should resolve the problem. That still leaves a few people that are knowledgeable about unintended consequences and perverse incentives that still advocate against government immigration campaigns.

    • Thane,

      It’s only five in the morning so I’m kind of blurry, but the first thing that pops out at me about your comment is this: “advocates of greater anti-immigration efforts” are not the same thing as “advocates against government immigration campaigns.”

      One could be neither, or both, or just one. I’m the latter but not the former.

  • Delaney Coffer

    Holy shit. You get paid to write this shit? hehe So the only way to secure the border is to not secure the border. Uggh.

    • Well, the first question would be “secure the border against what and whom?”

      It’s impossible to “secure the border” against millions of individuals hoping to get paid to roof houses, mow yards, pick tomatoes, pluck chickens, etc. — and even if it was possible, it would be a monumentally stupid idea unless you LIKE paying outrageous prices for those goods and services.

      TRYING to “secure the border” against that kind of movement has only two effects: It creates a sea of regular people for terrorists and so forth to hide themselves in, and it creates a lucrative industry in smuggling both types of people across the border.

      If the peaceful worker types can just walk in the front door, then that industry and its routes dry up because the occasional al Qaeda dirty bomb team isn’t enough to keep it in business.

      If the peaceful worker types can just walk across the border from Juarez into El Paso in broad daylight, then you KNOW the guy trying to do so at 3 am 100 miles from anywhere is up to no good.

      You can have the “secure the border” nonsense or you can have “national security.” You can’t have both.