The day after

The Prez gave a talk last night. Dude! He was down with immigration and border security. Many of the things he said sounded reasonable. From what I’ve heard (not just from the speech) the border guard is stretched thin. A stop gap of 6000 National guardsmen would come in handy. A rotation of 6k guardsmen is not an undue burden on a force 400k strong. The threat of smuggling across our borders is a real security threat.

Here’s my problem… while not exactly a red herring, I think the security argument raised by members of BOTH political parties is a little disingenuous. While a little lip service is paid to our loose border with Canada, I think it’s probably a given that a bulk of those 6-12k reinforcements are heading just north of the border (with Mexico). Are Apache helicopters, motion sensors, highway checkpoints (miles inside the border), cameras, and fences in place to stop terrorist smuggling across our loose border with Canada? Ah, not so much. They are on the border with Mexico for one reason… to stop immigration. It is said that we need more people on the border to prevent crime… but what proportion of the crime we’re preventing is the one we made illegal by making immigration for so many a crime? Sure, there are drugs, but Reagan declared war on drugs back in the 80’s… and that’s gone almost as well as Iraq (Rummy’s doin’ a heck of a job!). This is not to say that there might be legitimate reasons for curtailing illegal immigration, but I want to keep this entry relatively short. My belief is that the security argument is only there to throw a bone to the lingering fear of 9/11. But recall that the only 9/11 prosecution involved a terrorist that came into this country through Canada. So of course it makes perfect sense to respond by beefing up security in Texas and Arizona.

Politics. Regardless of prevailing facts, perception suggests the Mexican border is a problem. Can you picture a Vermonter sitting across the river with his shotgun, waiting on one of those frenchy-Quebecer bastards to come scurrying across the border? Part of the perception is rooted in reality… after all, why would a Canadian want to come here (other than to warm up)? And here’s my bone for you cynics out there… it may not hurt that beefing up security on the Mexican border tosses a few greenbacks to a few red-states.

This is the political genius of the Bush administration. Take two real issues: immigration and border security. One of them is highly controversial (immigration) and one of them is not (security). Put them together in a package the public will buy en masse, and the perceived/plausible issue balances out the controversial one. BOOM… hello better poll numbers. Now we can sell a move that some might otherwise perceive as a little racist (keeping out the Mexicans) by selling it (in part) as a security move. Just keep your eyes peeled for the odd guy walking across the border from Windsor, on your way to get some cheap prescription drugs and that high-flow toilet you always wanted. If Canada is Wal-Mart, what does that make Mexico… a downtown pawn shop?

It’s possible that the longer we treat it like this, the more likely it will stay that way. Is THAT in our long-term security interests? No, I’m not really advocating a militarization of the border with Canada. In large part, the only thing we have to fear from Canada is a quirky accent. As for Mexico, here’s a lesson from the middle east (and post WWI Germany before that)… resentment and poverty eventually led to extremism, brutality, and in the middle east’s case… a breeding ground for modern day terrorism. Yeah, a little more resentment is exactly what we want from Mexico right now. Wouldn’t it be ironic if our response to (what may be) a perceived security risk eventually contributed to a real or increased security risk?

**Wholely irresponsible side comment: did you know that in 2001 there was a larger population of Arabs (7,795) in Windsor, Canada, that Blacks (6,960)? (Insert mock, omninous ‘Ooooh’ here.)

Give the gift of words.