Immigration: Canada should follow U.S. lead in locking up its borders

Will tightening our borders thwart economic migrants and choke drug smuggling?It is a truism that we all (except for a statistically insignificant Native American segment) are immigrants. Whether our families came here centuries ago or just deplaned at Pearson International Airport, we are "immigrants." Somehow that sociological irrelevancy is supposed to make citizens more understanding of those seeking to live in our country, regardless of how they got here. We are the fortunate — just lucky to have beaten the rush and consequently should be humble over our sanguine circumstances and more respectful of the "rights" of those arriving without benefit of hidebound visa bureaucracies.

Sorry about that.

What is it that dewy-eyed human comfort stations don't understand about illegal?  That is I-L-L-E-G-A-L, as in having no right to be here — Having broken the law by their presence and having no respect for the designated procedures and regulations of the country whose bounties they seek to receive.  They are trespassers, queue jumpers, and by definition criminals.

The very first requirement for a nation state is to secure its borders.  This is not the 18th century when unfettered wanderers could blithely cross the North American continent.  Effective border control is the essence for addressing the immigrant issue.  Hence, efforts — that could be much stronger — across the U.S. southern border are imperative not just to thwart economic migrants but more importantly to combat massive drug smuggling. There should be comparable concern in Canada. Having a border sufficiently porous to permit terrorists to enter Canada and then slip/side into the United States benefits neither country. The U.S.-Canada border is no longer a wink-and-a-nod transit zone, but it is still far from secure with illegal drugs and weapons moving south and north respectively.

[ David Kilgour: New citizens improve Canada and benefit the economy ]

Nor should Canadians be dismissive about the 12 million (but who's counting?)  illegals in the United States. Were there to be a comparable number, say 1.2 million, in Canada, one expects that Ottawa would not be amused. It is an immense problem in every dimension that has virtually paralyzed California's finances by attempting to provide social services for these illegals.

We need to set aside the anguished cases of illegal immigrant parents facing separation from legal citizens. We need to ignore these "oh so sad" stories of small child-with-life-threatening-illness used as anchors to rationalize permitting parents to stay. Just who asked these individuals to enter our country illegally? And then to have children?

The only "right" those arriving illegally should have is to be taken to the border humanely and returned to their countries of origin.

Indeed, it is very hard to find diplomats that have issued visas who sympathize with "illegals." They have seen the patient efforts of foreign citizens working through the regulations, adhering to mandated requirements, taking medical exams and language tests, and waiting/waiting/waiting for their opportunity to arrive. Every illegal immigrant has done the equivalent of giving a "Trudeau salute" while sneering "Sucker!" to those that have played by the rules. If for no other reason than keeping the faith with legal immigrants, we must be punctilious about finding and expelling illegal immigrants.

It is absurd that the United State should have a "wet foot; dry foot" rule permitting any illegal boater-rafter that reaches dry land to stay. It is absurd that any individual reaching a Canadian customs post can claim refugee status — and accorded government subsidies while the claim is processed — an effort often taking years.

But we need to be honest.  The immigration dilemma didn't explode overnight.  For a generation there has been a silent conspiracy between Republicans that wanted cheap labor for farms and industry and Democrats that wanted these individuals unionized so eventually they would become voters.  But it is a canard that if there were no illegals, economies would grind to a stop.  With over 8 percent official unemployment, there are individuals that can do the "jobs that citizens won't take."  You either pay to get these jobs done; if they are important enough to do, money will be found to do them.  Or if they are not done, so what?  Every California lawn doesn't need its own manicurist.  Every middle-class working woman doesn't need a nanny/housekeeper.  And real labor shortages will prompt greater efficiencies and technological innovation.

Such an approach hardly implies "shutting the door."  But immigrants are a distinct societal expense, and should be accepted only to the degree that they benefit our economies.  It is a rare privilege to gain access to a first world, human rights respecting democracy.  We should not hesitate to limit access strictly.

David T. Jones is a retired State Department Senior Foreign Service Career Officer and a frequent contributor to American Diplomacy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving for the Army Chief of Staff. He is co-author of Uneasy Neighbor(u)rs, a study of American-Canadian bilateral concerns and has published several hundred articles, columns, and reviews on U.S. - Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy.

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