By Lester Asamoah
Crises make people drink a lot of questionable Kool-aid, and none more so right now than the “secure the border” Kool-aid. That is why I have come up with a quick guide as to why you should just say no to this particular beverage. Seriously. It’s not worth it.
1. It suggests that all undocumented immigrants are Mexican.
Statistically speaking, most of the undocumented immigrants originate from Mexico. I don’t want to run from the truth. However, recent controversy surrounding the spike in undocumented children is buttressing a myth that undocumented persons are all from Mexico (or around Mexico). Dept. of Homeland Security data shows that China, Philippines, India, and Vietnam are all represented as origins of undocumented people. Surprise, not every undocumented person is from Mexico!
Why does this point matter? Well, the undocumented children are not all Mexican. So no, we cannot “send them back to Mexico.”
2. People think “securing the border” actually works.
I could literally write a kids story with the fabrications that politicians and ill-informed people say about “securing the border.” Granted, it is true that if there were more walls and drones, fewer people would enter the country. But that is like putting ice on a torn ACL. Walls, guns, and drones won’t stop everyone. It won’t even stop half of the people coming in – people will find ways like riding boats, creating fake identities, climbing mountains, or using a portkey.
People want to have a better life. But it’s not all sunshine and roses in America. Some immigrants don’t know English, have no identity, and are leaving a home where they sincerely believe they will suffer and die. I have no idea what it’s like to be on the other side of that fence, but I believe I would be making a similar decision if I were in their shoes. As would you, most likely. Just because I am privileged with being a citizen of the United States does not make me inherently better than another human being.
3. Guns and drones aren’t the answer to everything.
Governor Rick Perry and Fox News’ Sean Hannity recently took a tour of the Texas/Mexico border. Mr. Hannity wanted to highlight on his show that President Obama was not empathetic enough for the woes of Border Security. As I conceded earlier, increasing the amount of personnel and drones on the border would probably help. But I think Mr. Hannity and others are missing a major point – are more troops feasible? There is a pervasive myth that if we (a) build giant walls and (b) arm a bunch of troops, then (c) undocumented immigration will somehow end. Not likely.
Take a peek a Google Earth and scope out the US/Mexico border. First and foremost, building a wall “to keep the illegals out” is basically impossible. How about deploying the National Guard? Again, that’s hard to do. The terrain is rough, the environment unforgiving. Also, it’s not like we don’t have, oh, 21,000+ troops on the borders already. Drones are great for surveillance, but we can’t aim hellfire missiles at undocumented kids.
Let’s say that we add troops to the border and extend the wall and deploy more drones. They stop more people. Great. How about the millions of people already in the country? How about people that come in via Canada? Hell, if the Department of Homeland Security can genuinely afford to station more troops on the US/Mexico border, they should have at it. But we as Americans need to understand the gargantuan scope of this undocumented immigration issue. This is not something that walls and guns can solve. This is a humanitarian crisis, and America should address it accordingly.
4. The “Securing the Border Kool-Aid” is dehumanizing.
Have a little empathy. If I were impoverished outside of America and my son or daughter had a glimmer of hope in the U.S., I would send them there without a second thought. Let’s not pretend that you, dear reader, wouldn’t do the same thing. One of the highest goals of every generation is to make life better than their predecessors. I’ve never met a parent that would say they don’t want their child to have a better life.
“Well then, Lester, they should apply legally and get work visas!” Okay. Getting citizenship, or even a permanent resident status isn’t anywhere near as simple as it sounds. The citizenship test is one that American college graduates could easily struggle with. Work visas are not easy to get, and many people end up being exploited for work because they have nothing else.
“We get you, Lester, they’re people. But they’re not paying taxes, so…” Okay. Okay. Well, first, they do pay sales tax. Also, people can’t just be on welfare or other government services without any identification. I promise you the government is wasting your money on a lot of other things not pertaining to people at all. (Senator Coburn tells us all about it in his Wastebook series.) The narrative has focused on law and money, when it’s people we have to deal with. People trying to escape desperate circumstances. That’s what I want to get across. I think people want this to be a quickly cleaned up situation after all the other messy things we’ve dealt with as a nation (see Iraq, Wall Street, BP, etc.). I hate to break it to you, but the hardest problems are usually also the messiest ones.
5. Immigration is an issue that requires long-term, calculated solutions.
Our politicians need to come together and figure out long-term, rational, and humane solutions. Let’s start by taking better care of our Homeland Security employees. They are asked to do way too much.
Then, let’s figure out how we can work with the struggling nations from which these immigrants travel. For those of you that whine about foreign aid (it’s literally only one percent of our budget) – we need to invest in making the world better outside of our borders. I don’t know what exactly that will look like, but obviously we are making significant strides. But until everyone debunks the myth and understands the real problems that are beyond fortifying the border, I am worried that we will not formulate real, effective solutions.
Next, let’s look at reform within our own country. People are here now and they will keep coming. Let’s learn how to engage them and treat them like people while they are here. Perhaps not every law is perfect. If every law were immutable and unable to be reviewed, America would be a scary and tragic place indeed. But that is not the case. So let us work to make the law better, improve our circumstances, and look toward a brighter future.
Let’s put down the soap boxes and put on our thinking caps. This will not be easy. There will be pain. But for our fellow human beings and our great nation, let’s stop pretending this will be easy and take the hard path to resolution. Don’t drink the Kool-aid.
Lester Asamoah is an International Security Studies Senior at the University of Oklahoma.