The Notion of Border Security

The discussion about immigration reform invariably includes the issue of border security. The United States has two land borders. Technically there are three; US-Canada, Alaska-Canada and US-Mexico. However for the purposes of this discussion we will focus on two borders bordering Canada on the north and Mexico on the south. Betraying that one of the driving forces behind the notion of border security is driven by racism the issue of border security is normally focused on the US-Mexico border.

The reality, though, is that the US-Canada border is about 3,987 miles long making it the longest undefended border in the world. The US-Mexico border is almost 2,000 miles long.

When it comes to border security we must divide the discussion into three sections – homeland security against terrorism and nation-state infiltration, criminal activities through the border and cross border migration for economic purposes. The three elements of border security must be separated in order to have a meaningful discussion on border security.

The first element is security against foreign invasion and/or security against terrorism against the United States. Currently the undeniably threat from foreign aggression to the United States is based on Jihadist terrorism directed at the country. Although it makes for great doom-and-gloom headlines, the fact is that through November 30, 2014, no Jihadist terrorist has ever been proven to have entered the United States through the US-Mexico border.

On October 8, 2014, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson there was no “credible, specific intelligence” indicating that ISIS fighters had crossed the US-Mexico border, specifically contradicting the speculation shared by US Representative Duncan Hunter (R) earlier in the year. [9]

It is important to note that all 19 of the September 11, 2001 hijackers entered the United States legally with the proper immigration documentation provided to them by US officials. [10] All of the terrorists arrived from overseas and entered through US airports.

Recently, ISIS terrorism has been at the forefront of the discussion about US security. As of November 30, 2014, not a single ISIS terrorist has been documented to have originated from Mexico, or Latin America. As a matter of fact, there have been numerous US citizens who have been identified as having participated on terrorist activities on behalf of ISIS.

A 2012 report provided to the US Department of Homeland Security points out that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers entered the United States through airports. [12] Again, not one of the terrorists has been linked to Mexico, or the US-Mexico border.

The second element of border security involves the issue of criminality through via the land borders. Criminality encompasses many things that are beyond the scope of this presentation. These include evasion of law enforcement to contraband of drugs, people and other illicit materials. As with all criminality the perpetrators are constantly looking for weaknesses within the security apparatuses. This is true for the borders as well as in all communities within the United States.

Of the criminal activity it must be noted that drug trafficking is a constant threat to the United States as the drugs consumed in the United States originate in Latin America and frequently enter through legal and illegal points of entry on the US-Mexico border. The only way to effectively remove the entry of narcotics through the land borders is to effectively seal the borders.

This is impossible and this is best demonstrated that regardless of the increased security as a result of September 11, 2001 the narcotics trade continues to thrive in the US. Accepting that the border cannot be sealed then it makes sense to focus on contraband interdiction via more efficient methods. This brings us to people smuggling and unauthorized entry into the United States by migrants.

Understanding and accepting that immigration into the United States, by Mexicans and other migrants, is primarily driven by economics then it is important to focus on the driving nexus to address the unlawful entries.

The economics of immigration to the United States has already been demonstrated in the historical section to be a necessity for both the US and the countries providing the immigrants. Obviously Mexicans account for the vast majority of the economic immigrants.

Accepting that immigration to the US is primarily an economic necessity for the United States would allow us to focus on how to properly focus on immigration reform. An adequate and fair immigration scheme based on the economics of immigration would significantly reduce the need to deter unlawful cross-border migration and allow those resources to be focused on criminal activity at the border.