Closing Mexican Border Could Be a Blessing

By Raymond Rodriguez
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 2, Number 4 (Summer 1992)
Issue theme: "Twenty years later: a lost opportunity"

Close the border! Does anyone even dare to suggest such a thing?

Few thoughts or ideas are as vile or as repulsive to Latinos, especially those of Mexican extraction. To advocate closing the border is akin to disavowing one's family. Anyone who would suggest such a move is no hijo de pais, not a loyal son. How in good conscience and by all that is holy can anyone do such a thing and still look in the mirror without feeling utter revulsion?

Close the border, indeed. What next, genocide?

Actually closing the U.S. borders is not as far-fetched a scheme as it may first appear to be. Closing our borders is not to be confused with sealing them by erecting moats or walls, as some zealous individuals insist should be done. In fact, the issue of controlling illegal immigration should be an integral part of the proposed free trade agreement among the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Regulating immigration is as important as enacting agreements to control trade and pollution of the environment - and for many of the same reasons. The violation of a nation's territorial integrity, its safety and well-being cannot be tolerated. The human tide flowing across our northern and southern borders makes a mockery of our international boundaries.

Although only a combined effort will eliminate the problem, there are several things the United States can do to control the situation. Based on study and personal observations, including some drawn from spending a night recently with the U.S. Border Patrol at work in California, I offer these thoughts

* We must press Mexico to locate its new industrial plants away from our southern border. While building factories along the frontier is convenient for U.S. business firms, it compounds the immigration problem. The plants act as irresistible magnets, drawing people to the border areas in search of steady work and better wages. Once there, crossing over into the United States is simply a continuation of the journey. As long as the plants are there, the people will come.

Then it is up to the understaffed U.S. Border Patrol to deal with the problem. To be effective, it would have to double its personnel and change its tactics. Now it allows hundreds of persons to mass on the U.S. side of the border and wait for the cover of night. No attempt is made to deter them from entering in the late afternoon or early evening. By nightfall, the numbers that have gathered are so vast, it is impossible to cope with them.

'The mission of the Border Patrol

needs to be clearly defined.

Instead of fragmenting its limited

forces, it should concentrate

its interception efforts...'

* Secondly, the Border Patrol should not allow undocumented persons to penetrate well into U.S. territory before attempting to intercept them or turn them back. The rationale is that it is easier to cut them off or capture them after the terrain channels them into the barrancas - dry gullies. Unfortun-ately, mother nature is neutral. She simultaneously betrays the unwary and provides shelter to the canny. The coyotes know all the hidden nooks and crannies. Even on the most fortuitous night, 50 percent or more of those entering illegally escape capture.

* Third, the effectiveness of checkpoints established on major highways miles from the border and manned sporadically has long been the subject of controversy. Once again it is a question of too little, too late. The mission of the Border Patrol needs to be clearly defined. Instead of fragmenting its limited forces, it should concentrate its interception efforts where they will do the most good. The natural point of deterrence is at the border itself. The help and cooperation of both nations in policing their sides of the border must be aggressively pursued.

Altering the role and operation of the Border Patrol will significantly reduce the number of people gaining surreptitious entry. The United States will then be able to police its borders and regulate immigration That is not possible at the present time under a piecemeal, uncoordinated system. Both our southern and northern borders are sieves through which people literally pass at will.

While Latinos, and particularly Mexicans, are reluctant to support closing the border, their opposition is based primarily on emotional factors. They need to consider the long-range benefits that will accrue. Fewer undocumented immigrants means more jobs and better pay. The socio-economic status of those already here will decidedly improve.

And best of all, once their own situation stabilizes, those who arrived legally will be able to help family and relatives enter the country the same way. Thus rather than a curse, closing the border could be a blessing. ?

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