Nation: A Place With Borders

The debate over illegal immigration shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s at stake: the nation itself.

The American dream: to sneak over the U.S.-Mexico border under cover of darkness, get a job that no legal citizen will take and send the money you earn back to your family in Mexico. That scenario is, of course, an exaggeration; it’s easy enough to cross the border in broad daylight. As a result, the nation is embroiled in a national debate over illegal immigration.

The debate, though, is multifaceted. Economics, social development, border control, guest worker programs, racism or any of a myriad of issues related to illegal immigration prevent anyone from actually solving the problem. The debate becomes so complex that the politicians responsible decide there are no easy solutions, then accordingly implement nothing of consequence.

As a hot-button political issue, illegal immigration is sometimes bound up in the notion of the American dream. The idea that we as a melting-pot nation would send immigrants home is viewed by some as racist, economically undoable and—worst of all—un-American. They say the U.S. was built by immigrants for immigrants; it is who we are as a nation. And that is exactly where the debate should center: on the status of the United States of America as a nation.

A few fundamental principles define a nation. One of these is the existence of government, which is there to define and execute law. Certainly no nation has ever survived without law.

A second defining quality is culture: The glue that holds a nation together is its common language, culture and ideals. Without a unifying culture—without common values—the political and moral fiber of a nation frays.

A third requirement for a nation—but perhaps first in importance—is the establishment of borders. We identify a country on a map by where its borders lie. No one would consider establishing a country without clearly delineating its borders.

Let’s apply these three fundamental principles of national sovereignty to the debate over illegal immigration.

A Nation of Law

First, consider the idea that a nation enforces its laws. The truth is, the main reason illegal immigration hasn’t been curbed is that the government doesn’t respect its own laws enough to enforce them.

There are currently about 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. Although that estimate is probably low, let’s give the number context: It lies somewhere between the populations of Pennsylvania and Ohio. It is slightly greater than the entire population of Cuba. The U.S. could designate a 51st and 52nd state called North and South Illegal that would still comprise two of our most populated states—or it could be broken into 12 states the size of Rhode Island.

Clearly, the hundreds of thousands that violate our borders annually do so without significant fear of penalty. Certainly the argument that it would be nearly impossible to deport every illegal immigrant is true. It is also true that it is impossible to catch and convict every rapist. The police cannot solve every murder. Would anyone argue that we should not even try? If a nation does not even make the pretense of enforcing law, what kind of nation is it?

Combine the notion that the flow of illegals cannot be stopped with the assertion that those already present should be given amnesty and one thing is guaranteed: The flow of illegals will increase.

By debating the right of those who enter the country illegally to do so without penalty, we debate the very notion of law. The idea that someone has a fundamental right to illegally enter a country is absurd.

If the United States does in fact need workers from abroad, that problem could be solved by opening legal avenues for those workers to come and go within the bounds of the law. The debate isn’t really about whether the U.S. needs workers though: It’s about the status of illegal workers. On that issue, the law has already spoken. If we claim to be a nation of laws, we should be a nation that enforces those laws. On this first fundamental principle on which any nation is built, the United States fails the test.

A Common Culture

Second, consider the fundamental principle that a country’s citizens share a common culture. Culture, as defined by Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations, refers to “a people’s language, religious beliefs, social and political values, assumptions as to what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, and to the objective institutions and behavioral patterns that reflect these subjective elements.” Unlike skin color or ethnic heritage, someone’s culture can change. People can convert to other religions or systems of values and beliefs. They can learn new languages.

Initially, this was the basis of U.S. immigration: There existed an American identity, and people of all creeds and races took on that identity. In other words, they could Americanize.

This Americanization process was given a metaphor in Israel Zangwill’s 1908 play The Melting Pot. In the play, a youthful Russian-Jewish composer in New York calls America a pot where everyone melds together and re-forms. Theodore Roosevelt, to whom the play was dedicated, called it a “great play”; he agreed with Zangwill’s concept. He, like presidents before him, welcomed large-scale immigration into the U.S. as long as those immigrants became Americans. “Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all,” Roosevelt famously proclaimed.

Another U.S. president, John Quincy Adams, said that for immigrants to succeed in this land, they had to “cast off the European skin, never to resume it.”

Until the 1960s, that is largely what immigrants did. The height of immigrant assimilation occurred between about 1870 and 1920. Almost every city with a large immigrant population had Americanization programs through local schools and businesses.

This latest wave of illegal immigrants represents a stark contrast to that historical ideal. Because the nation decided who would be allowed to enter the country, the best and the brightest became part of America, then embraced its culture, its language and its history. Now, the vast majority of illegal immigrants actually intend to fill the unskilled labor void and support another country with the proceeds. If we encourage that sort of immigration as a nation, we are creating a permanent underclass of non-Americans. Forget the American dream; many of these illegals don’t even want to learn English.

In response to a government proposal last spring to provide grants to those who want to learn English and U.S. history, the director of Immigration Policy and Research for La Raza, a Hispanic American group, complained that though the proposal “doesn’t overtly mention assimilation, it is very strong on the patriotism and traditional American values language in a way which is potentially dangerous to our communities.”

Most illegal immigrants have no intention of adopting American culture or values. Instead, they intend to transfer their own culture to within U.S. borders.

Certainly the illegal immigration debate fails the culture test as well.

Secure Borders

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “A body that does not have any borders cannot act cohesively” (Deutsche Welle, May 11). Consider how important national borders are. Most ongoing military disputes involve some sort of conflict over a border. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is inherently a border conflict. Wars typically begin when one nation decides to violate the territory of another. When citizens of one country encroach on another country’s territory without permission, it is trespassing—and in some cases, invasion.

Whether those people think they are invading, trespassing, or just crossing into a land of opportunity, though, is of less importance than the reality that the U.S. is absolutely unable to protect its own borders—the lines that define it as a nation.

A group of Mexican mercenaries known as the Zetas graphically highlights why having a porous border in America is so dangerous.

First, authorities say this group controls the border town of Nuevo Laredo, which sends more than 6,000 merchandise-laden trucks daily into Texas—roughly 40 percent of Mexico’s exports. Last year, the group killed that city’s police chief the day he took office (his predecessor also having been shot dead) and then fired a shot at his successor too, killing the new chief’s bodyguard instead. President Vicente Fox sent hundreds of troops to the city to restore order, but those efforts were in place even before the above-mentioned killings.

Between January and June this year, Zetas killed 126 people, including 13 officers; the city of 350,000 currently has no police chief. The Zetas are described as commando types, dressed in black and using high-powered weapons and hand-held radios.

The leaders of the Zetas originally belonged to an elite anti-drug paratroop and intelligence battalion known in Mexico as the Special Air Mobile Force Group. In 1991, they deserted the group, lured by the easy money to be made in drug trafficking.

The Zetas are now believed to have followers in Texas, Arizona, California and Florida. As though that weren’t enough, the Zetas offer a $50,000 bounty for the assassination of U.S. law-enforcement officers.

Members of the Zetas claim the group works with U.S. drug dealers: “They cross the river. They do the job over here [the U.S.]. They kill. They pick up—they make people disappear, and they come back to the Mexican side. That’s why police never find them” (krgvtv, May 22).

The Mara Salvatrucha gang is another example. In May, investigators in Hidalgo County, Tex., found 84 illegal immigrants including two tattooed members of the gang in a single apartment complex. County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said it was “quite obvious that the majority of the 84 illegal immigrants were not here to work, but to commit crimes such as drug dealing and thievery” (The Monitor, May 17). An array of weapons and 230 pounds of marijuana were seized.

This sort of gang activity is only possible because our borders are porous. If these sorts of hardened criminals can cross our southern borders that way, so can terrorists with a mind to commit far more devastating acts. A similar situation exists in Canada (see sidebar, below).

The argument against enforcing the border is that it would be undoable. One solution that is often dismissed is a wall; politicians—the president among them—say that a wall could never stop the “enormous pressure on our border.” Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer disagrees: “Opponents pretend that these barriers can always be circumvented by, say, tunnels or clandestine entry by sea. Such arguments are transparently unserious. You’re hardly going to get 500,000 illegals lining up outside a tunnel or on a pier. Such choke points are exactly how you would turn the current river of illegal immigrants into narrow streams—which is all we need to turn the illegal immigration problem from out of control to eminently manageable” (May 19).

Instead of actually sealing the border, the number of guards has been increased, a strategy that has been implemented time and time again with no real success.

It seems that the most powerful nation on Earth cannot defend its borders. Is the U.S. really so weak? Clearly, the answer is yes—and biblical prophecy tells us why.

The Stranger

In our book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, we explain that the nations of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom comprise the modern-day descendants of biblical Israel. This is important to understand, because the Bible has specific prophecies concerning these nations. One of those prophecies discusses the problem that these nations would have with immigration.

God gave a dire warning to the Israelite peoples concerning immigrants from other cultures (the Bible uses the word strangers). He said that if the children of Israel were to rebel against His laws—to turn away from His commandments and embrace the practices of the heathen—they would suffer terribly (Deuteronomy 28:15-19). The curses included this prophecy: “The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail” (verses 43-44). Lax immigration policies and weak borders are playing an instrumental role in the fulfillment of the Bible’s prophecies.

Consider how profound the effect of these prophecies is. As we watch illegal immigrants demonstrate for rights they do not have, consider the nature of the national debate. A fundamental disregard for law, the loss of a common culture, and the inability to even protect borders shows that the very things that define the United States of America as a nation are being chipped away one by one.