In light of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States has made several efforts to increase the country’s security. Within the last year, one of the largest debates has been with regard to border security. While the terrorist attacks are some of the fuel behind the debate, other issues include providing for the needs of illegal immigrants and their families and the economic impact of illegal immigration. Though in theory the debate centers on all American borders, the focus has been primarily on the southern border with Mexico and little discussion has been had about improving the security along the Canadian border.
New border legislation enacted in 2006 provided for the building of a wall measuring several hundred feet long on the United States/ Mexico border in Texas, longer jail sentences for those convicted of smuggling illegal immigrants into the United States, and the posting of National Guard troops along the United States/Mexico border. A report in the September 21, 2006, edition of the Washington Post states that recent bills passed by the United States Congress regarding border security have all been somewhat weak, and have covered disparate aspects of border security that have little to do with each other.
Little has been done to create laws that are both tactically strong in preventing illegal immigrants and terrorists from crossing the borders of the United States as well as providing laws that are fair and equal to those wishing to emigrate by legal means. Heightened interest in illegal immigration has led to more reporting of conflicts between Mexican Nationals and those charged with patrolling the border. These conflicts have simply added fuel to the cry for improved border security.
Recent advances in technology have made it so that the United States can employ newer technology, ranging from facial recognition software to fingerprint readers in their effort to have more control over who enters the country via the southern border. Because the technology is complicated and new, many lawmakers are concerned about the potential invasion of privacy that it might cause, as well as the expense that it will entail. In addition, many who do not live in the Border States or are unfamiliar with American geography may have trouble envisioning both the length and scope of the American-Mexican border.
Many policy makers have difficulties understanding the specific nature of the problems and therefore end up developing inadequate or poorly functioning solutions that don’t do anywhere near enough to resolve the problems created by these inadequate solutions. According to Ackleson (2005) one of the main issues in helping policy makers develop functional, efficient policies is the fact that very few people in power understand exactly what creates a situation where border security is both efficient and fair.
One of the major complaints that have been made about current border security and immigration policy is that it does little to stop illegal immigrants, or potential terrorists from entering the country. Little has been done by the Federal Government to expand the rights of INS Border Patrol Agents to act in order to prevent illegals from entering the country. The National Guard presence on the border is minimal and nowhere near enough to patrol the thousands of miles of unprotected border. Another issue is that of the Untied States border with Canada.
Several thousand miles of this border are completely unguarded, and in many places, people can simply walk into the United States from Canada. According to Mass (2007) one of the major issues is the influence of major corporations on the political agenda in the United States. This is most true regarding industries that rely almost completely on the flow of illegal immigrants. Fields such as agribusiness, and the service industry that includes multi-national corporations such as Con-Agra and McDonalds have all had issues in the past with the hiring of illegal immigrants, and many of these businesses have a powerful lobby in the U.
S Congress. This lobby affects the ability of lawmakers to put more effective border security policies in place on the United States Mexico border. Mass (2007) also characterizes the current lack of border security as an effort by the government and the lobbies of major corporations that influence political policies to create a North American Union similar to the European Union. This may, or may not be true however, it is a strong possibility that this could happen since countries in Asia, the Middle East, and South and Central America are moving towards similar alliances.
Many have proposed the idea that the border begins not just at the physical entry points to the United States but in places where people and cargo embark upon the journey to the United States. Problems with border security are not just related to Mexican and Canadian borders but with the entry of people and goods from Europe, Asia and the Middle East as well. The numbers are rather overwhelming given the fact that land based borders between the U. S and other nations are around 7,500 miles long, 95,000 miles of coastline, and over 500 million people to contend with.
This means that we need to be doing much more than we are currently doing in order to protect our borders. Jennifer Lake (2007) of the Congressional Research Service states that we must focus on border security for two primary reasons. First, alternative solutions to border security must be addressed in order to protect the United States from terrorism. Second, something must be done in order to stem the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico, and Central and South America. We also do very little to limit or stop immigration from countries with large numbers of suspected terrorists, or to limit student and temporary work visas even further.
Although President Bush proposes increasing the number of available temporary worker visas, some people argue that this is not a feasible solution since it could allow for the entrance of terrorists into the country. The potential problem is similar to an existing one: there is no enforcement to assure that people with temporary visas leave when their visas expire. Many proponents of increased border security argue that the United States must first enforce the current immigration laws on the books, including taking action against the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
Many argue that until the current laws are enforced, adding more laws will simply be additional laws that illegal immigrants ignore. Desired Situation The key issues in border security are preventing terrorists from entering the country via weak borders and stemming the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico and South and Central America. Ideally, the objective would be for national security interests to be able to identify anyone who chooses to set foot on American soil. The overall goal would be to know who is entering the United States and for what purpose.
Preventing Terrorism Preventing terrorism is one of the major issues that must be addressed when looking at border security. Since September 11, 2001 much has been done to ensure border security in this direction. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done. A. Airport Security: Enforcing federal guidelines regarding airport security is vital. Critics of the Transportation Safety administration say that the regulations are enforced differently at various airports across the country and that many airport security personnel are poorly trained and ineffective.
In reality, this may currently be one of the most secure entry points into the United States and efforts need to be made to make the physical borders of the country as safe as the airports and harbors. B. Terrorist Acts. Regardless of public outcry over profiling, the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service needs to have more stringent control on the immigration of people from countries with high numbers of known or suspected terrorists. This could include more stringent background checks before visas are issued and a mechanism by which INS is alerted if a person with a temporary visa fails to leave the country on time.
It might also be worth considering some sort of monitoring system so that persons of suspect origin can be monitored while in the United States on a temporary visa. Other things to consider are: 1. Limiting the number of available student, or temporary worker visas. Many of the 9-11 terrorists entered on these types of visas. Many of their visas were also expired. INS need to be authorized to do extensive pre-entry background checks on those requesting visas and needs to have an effective enforcement arm for deporting those who stay beyond the length of their visas. 2.
Adequate supervision of immigrants coming in from the Canadian border; instead, we focus on the mass numbers coming in from Mexico. Both borders must be equally secure so that terrorists do not simply adapt to changing security issues. 3. Utilizing more of the advanced technology that has been developed in the wake of 9-11. Fingerprint readers and facial recognition software should be available at every legal port of entry into the United States. Stemming the Flow of Illegal Immigration An equally hot topic in the border security debate has been the issue of stemming the flow of illegal immigrants that cross the border from Mexico.
Many of these immigrants cross the border where there are no security checkpoints and therefore federal security agencies have no way to monitor who might be entering the country. Opponents to the prospect of tightening border security have claimed that we need the illegal immigrants to take service sector and farming jobs American-born workers refuse to do. While this type of culturally-biased and bigoted rhetoric has no place in the immigration debate, the country does need to address employment needs as part of an overall immigration reform package. Additional proposals for increasing security on the southern border include:
1. Using a mix of enforcement officers to patrol the border, including INS, National Guard and U. S. Border patrol. 2. Empowering border patrol agents to act with impunity in protecting the borer. When a border patrol officer is convicted of attempted murder for firing at someone illegal crossing the border, there is a problem. 3. Border crossing stations on all roads, not just major highways. 4. Using biometric, and computerized border control methods 5. Extending walls between United States and Mexican borders, and making them much higher than they currently are.
6. Longer jail sentences for illegal immigrants and those who smuggle them into the country. 7. Encouraging economic growth and development in Mexico and South and Central America Evaluative Criteria In creating the desired solution, the United States has many issues to consider. These are very long borders and therefore will require a mixture of approaches and means of enforcement. Furthermore, to effectively reach the desired solution, the entirety of the political structure has to reach a consensus regarding the goals and outcomes desired.
Currently, the two sides of the immigration debate cannot even agree on the desired outcome. Issues that will have to be considered are: 1. Can this solution be reached through political consensus? Because the political parties in the United States have been so diametrically opposed of late, there seems to be little chance that the parties will agree on a solution that is both politically expedient and effective in any manner. The one thing that might alter this is the public outcry last spring over the legislation that congressional leaders put forth. 2. Can this project be done in a cost-effective manner?
With more than 7500 miles of borders to the north and the couth, the United States needs to make a major investment in border security and doing so requires selling the majority of the populace on the need for that security. 3. Do we have the technological capabilities for this solution? One proposal before Congress gave the INS one 24-hour period to determine if someone was eligible for a temporary visa into the United States. This restriction is ludicrous. Other countries often take months to determine if a person is eligible for a short term visa. 4. Can we justify this solution to ourselves and the world?
America has long been considered the land of opportunity. If we take significant steps which effectively reduce the number of immigrants allowed into the country, are we betraying our past? 5. Does this solution address the need to grant political and religious asylum to persecuted peoples around the world and is it so cumbersome as to make legal immigration even more difficult? 6. Does this solution adequately address matters of national security such as knowing who is within our borders and when they leave? Current Situation Currently the United States is not going as far as it should in protecting our borders.
We are still stuck in the frame of mind that assumes that border security involves merely the increase of manpower. This is not necessarily true. We have tools that can be utilized to both protect our borders, and to ensure that the system operates in an efficient and an effective manner. As of right now the United States has increased the Border Patrol run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service by several thousand employees. The Federal Government has also stationed several National Guard units along the U. S, Mexico border. They are doing little or nothing to protect the Canadian border.
Through the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, some entry into the united States has become more monitored and more difficult, but the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already within our borders proves that country is not doing enough to protect itself from outside treats. Scenario One Jose and Rita live in Mexico near the border with El Paso. Rita is pregnant and Jose believes that he can find better employment in the United States. He applies legally for a temporary work permit, crosses the border daily for work and then applies as a legal immigrant.
This is, of course, the best case scenario and the way it should work. If Jose attempts to get a temporary visa, the government should conduct an appropriate background check and issue the visa. He should be allowed to work in the United States and return to his native country to live. These day passes are a normal thing in border towns. The key issue here is that we must monitor to make sure they are leaving when the temporary pass expires. Scenario Two Juan and Carmelita want their unborn child to be born in America so that it will be an American citizen.
After several days of observation, they find a spot in central Arizona along the fence where they can sneak into the United States. Carmelita’s child is automatically an American citizen because it was born in the United States. The problem here is that there are miles of unsecured border where illegals can sneak through and that we reward them for the effort by providing them with free medical care and free citizenship for their children. We need to develop a way to prevent illegal border crossing and to discourage its use. Scenario Three Terrorists observe the American border with Canada is largely unprotected and find ways to enter Canada.
Then, they purchase hiking gear and backpacks and simply hike across the border into northern Minnesota. Homeland Security has no way of knowing they have entered the country and no way to protect the populace. The Canadian border is very rugged in some places and difficult to monitor. However, the border must be monitored to prevent terrorists from simply walking across it. ALTERNATIVES: Solution One Provide more border security by utilizing computer, and biometric technology as well as infrared cameras etc to monitor the flow of people in and out of the U. S/ Mexico and the U. S /Canada borders.
Utilize these technologies to inspect cargo as well as people. A technological approach will be costly given the length of the borders and the terrain in some regions. In addition, there will need to be additional manpower to respond to threats detected by the technology and to monitor the machines reporting. Solution Two Decrease the number of work visas available for high tech, or medical fields (there are jobs in these fields but this is not where the majority of illegals work) and increase work visas for the service sector (this is where the majority of illegal immigrants work).
In addition, the screening process before these visas are issued should be more extensive and the reporting requirements for employers should be more extensive as well. For example, if an employer hires a person with temporary work visa and that person suddenly stops coming to work, there should be a reporting mechanism within the INS so that his location and intentions within the country can be determined. Solution Three Increase the number of United States Customs Agents in airports, train stations at international borders, highways, and sea and river ports.
Solution Four Reduce the number of services available to illegal immigrants even further than they are now. Currently they receive services for children born in the United States by making these unavailable there would be little motivation to sneak across the U. S border in order to receive them. Solution Five Offer aid to Mexico and Central and South American nations to help them raise the minimum wage rate, and attract new industries to Mexico. By improving the employment conditions in these countries we reduce the number of illegal immigrants crossing the borders.
Make it conditional on governmental responsibility and fair distribution of funds. Stakeholders Defining who has a stake in the immigration debate is difficult as it includes all American citizens, Canadian and Mexican citizens and those wanting to immigrate to the United states from anywhere in the world. Among the largest stakeholders though are American politicians. Politicians are faced with an on-going crisis of national security unlike any they have ever faced before.
Despite their best efforts, there is not simply a place or a person that the country can use as a military target and end the threat to national security. Instead, politicians are left with the requirement that they make the country feel safer and, if possible, be safer from external attacks. Politician’s further interest in the subject comes in the form of campaign donations and voting blocks. Many fear that if they are viewed as strong on immigration policy, they may lose voters among the Hispanic community and in other groups which believe that American opportunity should be available for everyone.
On the other side of the coin, mostly Republican lawmakers are concerned about the big business interest in illegal immigration and do not want to offend the donors with big wallets. Caught in-between is the average American, Canadian or Mexican citizen. Many in border states grew up in a time when crossing the border was as easy as going into the next state. Many are mentally unprepared for the idea that Mexico and Canada really are sovereign countries and that a passport is required to visit them. Furthermore, people living in Border States have no desire to lose additional civil liberties in the name of security.
Recommendations/Rationales American border security options have been criticized worldwide from countries which do far more to police their borders and regulate immigration than we ever have. Even Mexico, which has fence with concertina wire on its southern border, has argued that the United States should not protect itself from illegal border crossings. The people of America disagree. Middle America wants to feel safe from terrorist attacks and citizens in the Border States would like to feel that their jobs are secure from replacement with illegal immigrants.
Unfortunately, with world criticism and a self-image based on the Statue of Liberty’s invitation to the “poor huddled masses yearning to be free”, it is difficult to find a solution that is both economically feasible and politically feasible. The best option is to increase physical security on the border including both personnel and technology. Building a wall is a fruitless and ridiculous idea that will waste valuable resource. Instead, we need to encourage the economies of Mexico and Central America while instituting serious enforcement of our border crossing laws.
We also need to eliminate social welfare programs for illegal immigrants and restrict or eliminate auto-citizenship for newborns. Or, if we really do want to be the nation of immigrants we once were, we need to establish a new Ellis Island, in Texas or California, where people can line up and wait for their chance to swear allegiance to the United States and become citizens the right way. Success Indicators Perhaps it is the insidious nature of the problem, but measuring success of border security will be difficult. The largest measure of success is freedom from outside attack, but that is only one component of this issue.
The further measure of success would be to see a decline in the number of illegal immigrants in the country and an increase in the number that are here legally. References Ackleson, Jason. “Border security technologies: local and regional implications. ” The Review of Policy Research 22. 2 (March 2005): 137(19) Dizard, Wilson P. , III. “DHS gets down to details on SBI: new technology plans include budget and staffing blueprints; cost put at nearly $8b. (Department of Homeland Security, Secure Border Initiative). ” Government Computer News 25. 34 (Dec 11, 2006): 1(2). I
“House Passes Border Security Bill” Washington Post, September 21, 2006: http://www. washingtonpost. com Lake, Jennifer E. “Border security: the complexity of the challenge. ” Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs. Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs, 2007. Mass, Warren. “Why can’t we secure the border? In truth, we can secure the border. The problem is that the federal government is pursuing an open-borders policy as a steppingstone to North American merger. (SPECIAL REPORT: ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION). ” The New American 23. 8 (April 16, 2007): 25(2). I