DAVID BRIN's world of ideas

David Brin's "off-axis" political suggestions

Suggestion Eleven: Control the Borders

By David Brin, Ph.D.


[image from CNet.com]

If I seemed to lean a little "left" in some of my earlier missives criticizing a worldwide drift toward crony-aristocratism, and then to the right in supporting a repair of the U.S. military, and then left again by pushing the vital importance of citizen-level resilience... then prepare for another of my patented sudden veers! Because I believe the Obama Administration can, should... and will... act swiftly to regain control over the borders of the United States. In fact, I will lay heavy odds that he does it very soon.

This may sound surprising, but it shouldn't, if you had been paying attention to one of the great ironies of the last 16 years -- one that lay in plain sight, largely unnoticed. As one of his first acts upon entering office, Bill Clinton doubled the number of field agents in the Border Patrol. And one of George W. Bush's first endeavors was to savagely undercut that service.

It sounds counter-intuitive, of course, and neither political party ever spoke up about it much. But the reasons are simple. Democrats like legal immigration, which results in lots of new voters and new union workers, while illegals drain resources, get embroiled (against their will) into crime, and prevent domestic programs from achieving full effectiveness. On the other hand, Republicans -- well, not your neighbors, but some influential people near the top of the party -- like access to pools of cheap, undocumented labor that won't talk back. Only when border state citizens began getting riled did the GOP start talking tough about immigration. And talk, for the most part, is all they ever did.

I fully expect the same political factors to apply under Barack Obama. Watch for a serious attempt to increase cross-border trade and legal human contacts, but to crack down on illegal crossers and smuggling. This change of emphasis also happens to be a good idea for enhancing homeland security. And those who are offended by this illustrate that "liberal" and "leftist" really are different terms that apply to different sets of political passions that are only allied most of the time. We must not assume that the former have to always cater to the latter.

What I further expect is a change in the tilt of immigration laws. There has to be a limit to the chain of "family re-uniting" visas. It isn't logical at all to make that the fundamental basis for ingress of new legal residents. It isn't even fair in a human sense, since families here can already send home remittances, but what about other people in the old countries? Don't they deserve a chance, too?

Let there be no mistake, I am proud of America's heritage -- and present-day status -- as the world's leader (by far) in offering opportunities to hope-filled people from all over the globe. Diversity is our greatest strength and immigrants often give far more than they take. Anybody who takes this posting as xenophobic simply doesn't get it.

Nevertheless, as a nation, we have a right to have immigration be orderly and legal, at a pace that doesn't overstrain services. So long as we continue to be generous and prudently open, overall, immigration can even be tuned to benefit America in directly tangible ways. For example, by restoring somewhat of a merit system, especially when it comes to skilled workers that our industries desperately need, or allowing some of the foreign graduate students who we have (expensively) trained to stay and add their brilliance to our stew. After all, half a million people is half a million people. There's no rule of honor or nature that says we can't look for some of them to enter as a win-win deal.

America deserves plaudits for being the nation of fresh starts. It is a moral claim that can never be taken away from us. But we have to use some basis to choose among those wanting in, and doing so in an orderly and rational way -- one that is both generous and in keeping with our own best interests.


[image from M2SYS Blog on Biometric Technology]