Illegal Immigration: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Emerging From the Shadow of ‘Black Hawk Down’

In early 1996, I was preparing to assume leadership of a combat engineer platoon in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum, NY. At the time, Ft. Drum soldiers were the most frequently deployed in the Army—with the most notable of these being to Mogadishu, Somalia in an operation now referred to as “Black Hawk Down.”

The platoon I was slated to take over had recently completed several division-wide exercises to evaluate their combat readiness and—unfortunately for me—was rated among the lowest at Ft. Drum. They had a serious morale and discipline problem and lacked the confidence and faith in one another that is absolutely necessary in a combat-ready platoon. Fixing these issues would ONLY come about through solid, focused leadership and undaunted determination to succeed in making these soldiers ready for battle. My peers said it couldn’t be done. My senior officers were skeptical and had largely given up on this platoon. My subordinates were sick of making up for the deficiencies of the soldiers I was about to take over. However, in the span of 9 months, and after relieving a dangerous and non-performing platoon sergeant, promoting several other junior non-commissioned officers within the unit, instilling discipline while nurturing morale, and getting to know each one of my soldiers personally—so I could motivate each one of them individually—my platoon was re-evaluated and rated among the very top of the 10th Mountain Division. It was quite an accomplishment—and one that led to my chain of command recommending me for promotion ahead of my peers.

In reality, however, the decision to turn this platoon around was simple. Sure, there were 48 and 72 hour stints where none of us slept, and training and re-training on the rifle range, the demolition range, the gas chamber, etc., was difficult, and the extra hours of PT with the soldiers who needed it was time consuming…but really, because the task of making my platoon combat ready so they could fight and win America’s wars—and return home to their wives and kids alive—was so important, there was only one clear path to take. I had to lead, follow, or get out of the way…and I led.

The State of our Border Security: Non-Mission Capable

Putting this in perspective, the state of our nation’s borders and our illegal immigration problem right now is very similar to the platoon I took command of in 1996. In both instances, neglect and lack of focus on key issues caused problems that were exacerbated to the point that the damage was nearly irreparable. In both cases, solving the problem involved a choice with very serious consequences for our nation. In both situations, those who had the opportunity to make a difference had to lead, follow, or get out of the way…

…and in the case of illegal immigration, we’re still waiting for our elected officials to decide what they want to do. This is unacceptable.

Illegal immigration is a plague that has divided Americans and eroded American Exceptionalism. It undermines our sovereignty and heightens our national security risk. It stresses our judicial, education, and health care systems and, as a result, our economy—our nation—has paid a serious price.

We know that in order to fix this problem, we need to seal the borders, eliminate the thought of amnesty and end the anchor baby program. We have to purge incentives (like housing and tuition assistance) and punish employers who hire illegal immigrants. We need to document, tax, and fine those who are here illegally and document and deport those who are here illegally and committing crimes. Finally, we need to make it easier to immigrate legally and melt into the fabric of this great nation. These ideas aren’t new, nor are they anything that each of us doesn’t already know. The reason we’re still discussing them as “ideas” and not “the solution,” however, is because there is no will…no desire…no leadership in Washington to make this happen. In the meantime, our country continues to suffer because of it.

Will taking the steps necessary to end the problem of illegal immigration be simple? Of course not…but given the alternatives, we don’t really have a choice other than to get serious about illegal immigration. Think of it this way: when my soldiers were in Mogadishu, did they have a choice as to whether or not they should rescue the downed pilots and crew of the Black Hawks? No…Americans were in peril so they had to lead, follow, or get out of the way. They led. That’s what we expect of those who serve this country—whether it’s in uniform or public office, it doesn’t matter—the public entrusts their health and welfare to those who serve…and now more than ever, we need elected officials to lead, follow, or get out of the way…and I choose to lead.

It’s Our Time; It’s Our Duty.

In order to solve illegal immigration we first have to WANT to solve it.  Unfortunately, we have a short list of action-oriented leaders who are willing to do this…and an inversely proportional long list of pro-illegal immigration advocates who are winning this battle and are tearing our country apart. What would Thomas Jefferson or John Adams or George Washington say about this? Given all that they sacrificed for us, would our Founding Fathers extend a political olive branch to a faction of society that threatened all that they fought for—all that they risked…for us? Of course not! They’d lead their beloved country through the challenge and would expect us to do the same.

There is too much at stake to settle for electing a republican just to unseat a democrat…or for sending someone to Washington who can balance a checkbook and has created jobs in the private sector but doesn’t understand that what we need now—what we owe future generations—is hard-core, serious, Constitutionally-based leadership. The kind that won’t flinch or have to consider the political fallout when a hard decision is necessary to get America back on track…the kind that doesn’t think twice about taking the harder right over the easier wrong…the kind that will not look the other way on an issue like illegal immigration and stand on the side of American citizens to save American Exceptionalism.

At West Point, I studied the greatest leaders in history…and studied with the leaders who will shape the direction our world takes in the future. In every instance, whether past, present, or future, quality leadership was defined by what it contributed—not by how hard someone tried or a great speech they gave. It was action-oriented. It was results-oriented. It was selfless and totally “big-picture” oriented. Whether it was leading a broken platoon back to excellence or standing up to defend American Exceptionalism from the scourge of illegal immigration, leadership is about weighing the consequences and making the right choice…

…and it’s time to choose now.

This is our time; it’s our duty. In solving illegal immigration—or any other issue we face as Americans—we need those we elect to office to lead, follow, or get out of the way. What has the current political class done for us on this issue? What have they contributed? How can we look at the lack of leadership on an issue like illegal immigration and possibly consider those in Washington—or those who desire to go to Washington but don’t know what it means to lead—successful? Regardless of what people have said they’ve done in the past, illegal immigration is a bigger issue now than ever. Washington has failed us. “Establishment thinking” has failed us…and Americans continue to pay the price. It’s time to send people to Washington who will unapologetically lead, inspire others to follow, and move those who only aim to obstruct out of the way.

If you’re still not sold on the idea that leadership is absolutely essential in solving the crisis of illegal immigration, consider this: illegal immigrants are currently winning the battle of sensibilities in our country. How is it possible that the elected leaders of the United States of America let illegal immigrants dictate the terms upon which they get to come to our nation, partake in the American Dream, participate in the lifestyle that our forefathers built and passed on to us then demand to fly their nation’s flag and be treated equally as legal citizens under the law? This is a direct assault on American Exceptionalism, and the ONLY antidote to this affliction is effective leadership—effective leadership that has been missing from Washington D.C. for years.

Where have all the leaders gone? What happened to the pride of being an American among our elected officials? We are a special nation and a blessed people….and when it comes to protecting this nation that I love and solving her problems (like illegal immigration), every fiber of who I am…every cell that makes me breathe…looks at all that’s at stake and unapologetically chooses to lead.

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