Se­cur­ing the bor­der with se­man­tics

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Pres­i­dent Obama made a run for the bor­der on May 10 to shore up his cre­den­tials on the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue. Speak­ing from Chamizal Na­tional Me­mo­rial in El Paso, Mr. Obama de­fended his strat­egy as if it were work­ing. “They’ll never be sat­is­fied,” he said, lash­ing out at crit­ics. “The truth is, the mea­sures we’ve put in place are get­ting re­sults.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has cooked up a novel way to cal­cu­late what a great job his Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano has been do­ing in stem­ming the flow of aliens flood­ing over the bor­der from Mex­ico. In March, Ms. Napoli­tano stood on a bridge con­nect­ing El Paso to Ci­u­dad Juarez, Mex­ico, and pro­claimed bor­der se­cu­rity to be “bet­ter than ever.” In tes­ti­mony be­fore the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee two weeks ago, Ms. Napoli­tano claimed that the mean­ing of “op­er­a­tional con­trol” of the bor­der is “ar­chaic” and that she in­tends to de­vise a “more quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive way to re­flect what ac­tu­ally is oc­cur­ring at the bor­der.” She said she wants an in­dex that would in­clude a mea­sure of how many per­sons have been de­terred from even at­tempt­ing to jump the bor­der.

By count­ing these the­o­ret­i­cal il­le­gals — as op­posed to real ones — Ms. Napoli­tano’s bor­der-se­cu­rity mis­sion be­comes much eas­ier. While hun­dreds of thou­sands ac­tu­ally cross over an­nu­ally, com­pared to, say, Mex­ico’s en­tire pop­u­la­tion of 112 mil­lion, they rep­re­sent a tiny frac­tion. Pre­vent­ing bor­der cross­ing in a com­puter model or a spread­sheet al­lows Ms. Napoli­tano to pro­claim “mis­sion ac­com­plished” with­out hav­ing to ac­tu­ally crack down in a way that would of­fend left-wing open-bor­der ad­vo­cacy groups.

Ms. Napoli­tano’s at­tempt to re­de­fine what it means to se­cure the U.S. bor­der is a bril­liant ex­am­ple of dou­ble-speak wor­thy of “Big Sis.” Real num­bers are far less for­giv­ing. In Fe­bru­ary, the Gov­ern­ment Accountability Of­fice re­ported that the Bor­der Pa­trol has only 873 miles of the 2,000-mile south­ern bor­der sub­ject to “op­er­a­tional con­trol.” The term means sim­ply that the Bor­der Pa­trol has the ca­pac­ity to de­ter il­le­gal crossers and pur­sue them when they’re spot­ted. The re­main­ing length is mostly open for free pas­sage. In re­mote re­gions of Ari­zona, car­tels have es­tab­lished ob­ser­va­tion posts pro­vid­ing in­tel­li­gence to en­sure safe bor­der transit for drug couri­ers.

Mr. Obama and his eco­nomic ad­vis­ers do de­serve some credit for dis­cour­ag­ing il­le­gals from cross­ing the south­ern bor­der. By driv­ing up the U.S. un­em­ploy­ment rate from 5.8 per­cent to 9.0 per­cent, the O Force has turned the land of op­por­tu­nity into a job-de­fi­cient wel­fare state. Even il­le­gals are hav­ing a hard time land­ing jobs. None of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dis­cour­age­ment is in­ten­tional. As Mr. Obama said on May 10, those who break im­mi­gra­tion law should “pay their taxes, pay a fine and learn English” be­fore get­ting right back into line to ob­tain cit­i­zen­ship.

When there’s es­sen­tially no penalty for sneak­ing into the United States, there’s no rea­son not to hop over the bor­der. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion doesn’t have any an­swers to the im­mi­gra­tion prob­lem so it’s rein­vent­ing def­i­ni­tions to pre­tend progress has been made.

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