Open Versus "Closed" Borders


Huffington Post once penned an article listing 16 reasons why we should have open borders.  These ideas lie at the center of the immigration debate by creating a false dichotomy.  It pays to go through some of their 16 reasons and refute them since the article advocates for open borders.  The first is that “everyone concedes the current system is broken.”  In reality, it has several faults, but the only reason it is “broken” is because we have experienced several years of lax enforcement which encouraged more illegal immigration.  If laws were enforced, if “Dreamers” parent’s weren’t encouraged, if the necessary fixes like E-Verify were implemented, we would not be talking about a broken system today.

They claim that we always allowed immigrants into the country and they cite the wave of migrants from Europe in the early part of the 20th Century.  There is a vast difference in people arriving by boat from across the Atlantic and people simply walking across the Southern border.  That difference is control.  That is not the reality today and comparing European immigration to the US with Mexican/Central American immigration is like comparing apples to oranges (and it has nothing to do with their skin color, ethnicity, or language).

These beliefs also fail to mention a very important distinction between today’s illegal immigrant and yesterday’s legal European immigrant: while maintaining their heritage, customs, and beliefs, the European immigrant of old was more willing to assimilate into American culture.  Today’s Left views the melting pot, or the “unum” separate from the “e pluribus.”  To them, American values are patriarchal and imperialistic and therefore bad.  The result is a fractured hodgepodge of hyphenated Americans.

The article stated that the illegal immigration problem started in the 1960’s and was made worse in 1977 when the US capped Mexican immigration at 20,000 which was wildly out of touch with the realities of labor.  It is true that the problem started in the 1960’s, but not because of a cap on immigration.  The problem was the Johnson Administration stopped considering labor needs and instead based immigration on family reunification.  There was a workable program at the time, with one major flaw, in creating cyclical immigration into the United States.  That flaw was that an immigrant worker had to be sponsored by an employer who often took advantage of them (think Cesar Chavez).  A strong case can be made that the opposite attempt at reform (Reagan 1986), because it granted amnesty, hung a huge “Welcome” sign on America’s door to future illegal immigrants.

I am going to leave aside the economic arguments in detail.  Yes- it is true that illegal immigrants buy products in our stores and all the other nice things they do to support the American economy.  But, there are also costs and to deny them is to deny reality.  While the net gains may be positive, try explaining that to the worker who suffers from depressed wages and then has the added insult of paying taxes to help support those responsible for the depressed wages.

The article even strangely holds out as a good example of open borders as that of the European Union.  Experts note that countries that formerly lost population suddenly became magnets for immigrants (Spain, Portugal, Ireland).  This is supply and demand.  If you have been losing native population (and workers) it made sense that immigrants would migrate to these countries to fill the void.  Unmentioned is the current state of the EU’s open borders policy where- yes- labor and goods freely flows across borders, but so too does terrorism.  Do they really want to hold out European immigration policies as a good example?

Finally, there are the humanitarian/”America is at fault” reasons.  While increased enforcement and even a partial border wall or barrier would force illegal border crossings into dangerously rough terrain and deserts, it would also stem the tide of illegal crossings and pinpoint enforcement areas.  Nobody wants anyone to die in a desert or other such tragedy.  Given the number of illegal crossings every year, 2005 marked the high point with 492 deaths.  Not to sound cold, but it is a risk they take- a risk for which the US bears no burden.

When the Left speaks of open borders, they mean the unfettered movement of people across the border.  When the Right speaks of closed borders, it means better control of our borders.  A country without control of their borders is no country at all, just a big land mass.  There is no need for “comprehensive immigration reform” other than fixing that which is wrong on a piecemeal basis while bench-marking any future reforms to increased control of our borders.

Once our borders are secure and illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle (it would be unrealistic to expect 100% compliance), then and only then should we discuss what should be done with the illegal immigrants already here.

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