Border Security: Securing Who from Where for Whom?


E. Dorset, Vt.:  Old Catholic Cemetery, Civil War veteran's grave 4/13/12
E. Dorset, Vt.: Old Catholic Cemetery, Civil War veteran’s grave 4/13/12

          Yesterday, I posted on Karl Schlogel’s powerful history of the prelude to Stalin’s Great Terror, Moscow 1937.

           As I said, one thing the Soviets did well by their own standards was border security.  They wanted to keep people inside to control their enemies.  They would not repeat Imperial Russia’s error of allowing dissidents and revolutionaries – from Herzen (who inspired this blog) to Lenin – the option of exile.

           Keep your friends close and your possible enemies closer – or dead.

           I read Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (1935), which I’ve blogged on here and here, at least six years after 9/11 and the Patriot Act formalised the new security state.  This good-bad book posits a fascist dictatorship in the US.  Concentration camps quickly begin to dot the landscape.  People disappear.

           The futile flight of Lewis’s hero from central Vermont to the Canadian border, now fortified by the American government, retained its power to shock even after I’d been slowed on I-89 by a mobile Homeland Security checkpoint.

           This morning, reported on an amendment to the Senate version of the immigration reform bill proposed by Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX):

 Cornyn’s RESULTS amendment[1] forbids undocumented immigrants from obtaining permanent residency until four criteria are met:

 • 100 percent surveillance of the southern border,

• a minimum 90 percent apprehension rate for illegal border crossings,

• an operational biometric ID system at air and sea ports, and

• implementation of E-Verify nationally.

 He says the measure is critical to ensuring border security. [Footnote & bullets added.]

           Those are only the preconditions for a Green Card program.  Sen. Cornyn has proposed much more extensive tightening of border crossing.  According to Sen. Cornyn’s Senate website, the RESULTS amendment also (in part):

• Authorizes supplemental and emergency appropriations to improve border security, including $1 billion per year over 6 years for land port of entry infrastructure improvements and personnel.

• Allows DHS to enter into public-private partnerships to reduce port of entry wait times.

• Increases the number of Border Patrol and Customs Officers by 10,000 over 5 years.

• Authorizes a new grant program to allow Southern border state and local law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking, human trafficking, human smuggling, and spillover violence.

• Allows USCIS to share critical information contained in legalization applications with federal law enforcement and national security agencies.[2]

          None of Sen. Cornyn’s proposals is inherently one way.

          ‘Southern border surveillance’ will not discriminate between the legal and illegal.  ‘Ports of entry’ are also points of exit.  ‘Biometric ID systems’ work equally for arrivals as departures.  Expanding by 10,000 (to over 55,000) the number of Customs and Border Patrol agents promises more asset seizures and drug possession citations to fund themselves – the same system that has poured money into the Drug War for 35 years.[3]

           Not long ago, I read about a species of gazelles whose only biological function is to provide protein to big cats.  The image has stayed with me.  Has ‘the land of the free’ become the land of the prey?  Moscow 1937?



          1.  According to Sen. Cornyn’s Senate website, RESULTS is an acronym for ‘Requiring Enforcement, Security and safety, & Upgrading Legitimate Trade and travel Simultaneously’.

           2.  It also ‘Adds new authorities and tougher penalties to combat abusive human smuggling and human trafficking, including a federal money laundering predicate for human smuggling; and increased penalties for aggravated forms of the offense-e.g., involving death, forced labor, or sexual exploitation.’ What might constitute not ‘abusive human smuggling and human trafficking’?

           3.  For how this works, see AP reporter Curt Anderson’s superb report, ‘Florida Police Cash Force Show’s Forfeiture’s Growth (May 10, 2013).