The recent debate about border security has reached a fevered pitch. Each side acknowledging the situation as a security problem, as president Trump recently stated in his address to the nation, “We are facing a growing national security and humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border.” And as recently as Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer stated, “Make no mistake: Democrats and the President both want stronger border security.”
Both sides have provided an accurate depiction of a growing security problem on our southern border. But, is the argument really about security? Is there something else far more profound and concerning than merely securing our borders? And if so, which side of the argument provides a more compelling solution?
The answer may surprise you.
The original argument
Both sides of the argument have similar concerns. To each, it is about national security. No one doubts the problem of unchecked immigration, the flow of illegal drugs or a growing human trafficking problem. In fact, each side has more in common than not. But what they can’t agree on is how to secure it.
And here is where we will find our answer.
On one side it is about a wall or a physical barrier along the southern border. And on the other, it is about preserving an American heritage of open immigration, even though many argue it is political in nature and merely an anti-Trump stance. Regardless, we must look at the validity of their arguments since this debate may make its way up to the supreme court.
Each has compelling positions, but today is much different than during the turn of the 20th century and Ellis Island. Emma Lazarus’ statue of liberty sonnet, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” was a portrayal the United States early in its industrial development. America needed labor—and lots of it. However, the world has changed and so too has the United States. A burgeoning population, out of control debt, broke social programs, terrorism, and a growing drug problem have changed the landscape. In addition, a crime-ridden, and dysfunctional southern hemisphere has created an unmanageable illegal migration to the north.
Our empathy for the misfortuned has got the best of us and now with an estimated 15-25 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and a growing epidemic drug problem as well as unchecked caravans of people showing up on our border, the situation is reaching a crises level. To emphasize, recent studies highlight the financial burden of illegal immigration on our nation (over $115B cost to the American taxpayer), as alarmingly described in the 2017 Federation of American Immigration Reform’s report, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration.
This new version of Ellis Island can no longer take “your tired, your poor, or your huddled masses”—we have a growing group of our own.
Yet, even with these growing problems, both sides seem to be missing the grander dilemma with border security. For some reason, each side is so dug into their position they can no longer see the “forest for the trees.” However, there is one side whose argument is more compelling than the other. And by taking a closer look at it, we will begin to see the larger troubling predicament.
What is this predicament? What could be more important than protecting our nation or solving these egregious growing border problems? What is it they are missing?
Drum roll please?…it is our sovereignty!
Ok? What’s that? It sure sounds anti-climactic. Is this just another play on words? An existential view of a security issue that has no application? Hardly! Sovereignty for a nation is everything—and words mean things! This is the core problem on our southern border. In fact, it is the main issue for any part of our borders. Or for that matter, our trade, our commerce, our laws, and our place within the international system—this political standoff is far more than security.
Sovereignty is what defines us, shapes us, and allows us the ability to function and exist in a global structure. Without it, there is chaos. And eventually a slow erosion of what we know as America.
If you are catching on to my point then it is prudent for us to take a moment and review sovereignties origins.
Where does sovereignty sit in humankind’s social or political evolution? To determine this, we must look back 500-600 years during the religious upheaval in Europe. Martin Luther had laid the foundation of a Christian reformation that was to affect more than religious beliefs. It was to unveil for the first time in human history the idea of individual rights and a system to protect it. Luther’s stance against the Church morphed into a recognition of the individual person and their beliefs, rather than a central authority controlling or dictating how they should believe. In other words, to interpret God as the bible states rather than that of a priest or prescribed by Catholic doctrine.
Oh oh! How is this border security standoff possibly related to religion and faith? Hang in there—there’s more and it is of the utmost importance in properly addressing our current security issue!
Why the Christian Reformation is crucial to this argument
The Christian Reformation was a defining moment that was to protect not just how individuals believed but it was also the precursor of recognizing geographic areas where those who had similar beliefs could congregate—a living area for groupthink. Prior to 1648, Europe was controlled by a series of fiefdoms, alliances, and the Holy Roman Empire. Land was obtained through battle and kept by power. A wicked caste system of have’s and have not’s where much of the people were subjugated under the physical and intellectual yoke of its masters. It took a religious reformation and over 100 years of a bloody war before peace was restored.
This peace came in the form of an agreement called the Peace of Westphalia. It defined a new system of political order, based upon peaceful coexistence among established states. Inter-state aggression was to be held in check by a balance of power, and a norm was created against interference in another state’s affairs. As its influence [ what we know today as Western Civilization] spread across the globe, these Westphalian principles, especially the concept of sovereign states, became central to international law and to the prevailing world order—a new international system.
Today, the sovereignty of states is recognized and supported by the UN charter representing 192 independent countries, as stated in chapter 1, article 2, “The Organization [UN] is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” As Webster’s dictionary defines, it [sovereignty] is a critical “status, dominion, or power agreed upon and recognized by other nations.”
The dominion of a nation is so ingrained into today’s governing bodies and international law that commerce, trade, diplomacy, and security revolve around it. It is so crucial to the way the world works that without it, there would be nothing but disorder and conflict. If left to the masses (remember huddled masses), what we know as a nation’s right to exist would collapse and with it a world degenerating back into fiefdoms and roving bands of land grabbing barbaric hoards.
Humankind has come too far to disregard any of sovereignties tenants, one being the right for a nation to secure itself.
But wait! What does it mean to be sovereign?
Before we can prove the much larger problem sovereignty presents, we must answer what it means to be sovereign. In addition, by answering this, we can see why one side of the argument, even though missing the broader picture, is a sounder solution and better addresses the larger problem.
I can think of no better way to show this than that of an analogy—your own property rights.
Even though we are intelligent creatures and “I think therefore I am,” our ideas of daily living still require a defined physical space to operate in. To put it another way, I have property rights therefore I am. As a matter of fact, it was one of the founding revolutionary ideas of our country. A natural space to live as we choose. An area we independently own and shape the way we see fit—a spot we call home.
These rights were unheard of at the time but what separated us from every other form of government. In America, one’s property is sacred ground. And to ensure one’s ground is separate from someone else’s, we define it. Property lines recognized, protected, and enforced by law—spelled out in the constitution as a right—a sovereign space much like a nation. And without these rights, well, “Katy bar the door!”
How does this argument apply to our current situation?
What do we do with our property to ensure its protected? How does one define it to make sure the neighbors don’t build a pool on it or nefarious individuals don’t invade it? You delineate it in law (property lines) and build physical barriers—fences, trees, and yes, walls—to mark it. Barriers that protect the owners inside and keep invaders out.
However, are barriers necessary for all property? No!
Those neighbors that respect your property rights, do not build a pool on it nor invade it, do not require a barrier. But those who disregard your boundaries, illegally cross it, commit crimes on it, or become squatters, require a means to keep them out—a wall. For example, our northern border with Canada has few physical barriers separating our two countries. There is a reason for it, they respect our border and honor it. This is not the case on our southern border where Mexico disregards it, and its passive control of it allows for unchecked human trafficking, illicit drugs, and ungoverned space. And contrary to some popular opinions that we are a nation of immigrants and as such, a physical barrier on our southern border is an affront to who we are, then let’s get personal.
How many of these no wall people live in neighborhoods with no property lines or better, using our former president as an example, build walls to keep the people they love inside safe? As President Trump stated in his address to the nation, “walls around homes are not because they hate the people on the outside but love the people on the inside.”
The difference between our northern and southern border says it all—one respects our sovereignty and the other does not–this is where the emphasis needs to be placed!
How does this fit into the bigger picture?
If we decide to question our sovereignty by opening our borders to illegal immigration, no matter who, we are eroding our sovereign rights as a nation. Like our property, if the neighbor decides to come and live on your property, eat your food, live in your house, or fish on your lake, then everyone’s property is up for anyone’s use—your rights go out the window and what we know as America goes with it. The world is an international system of laws and America is a nation of laws. Laws that protect us from us and protect us from others. Squatters should not be the norm nor accepted? If allowed, at some point your property will erode. Out of pocket expenses will rise, the property value will diminish, and more worrisome nefarious people will commit crimes on it—leaving you with the bill, heartache and a tough job protecting your family.
Losing our sovereignty is a slippery slope that erodes our national identity, putting into question the validity of our laws and the very credence of our constitution. Without it, we cannot function. Once we forgo these boundaries, then other sovereign laws will also be challenged eventually destroying the foundation of our nation–a cataclysmic erosion of our republic. Securing our borders is just the first step in protecting us from the larger erosion of our sovereignty and our place within the international order. This attack on our sovereignty is far more significant than just security. If a wall ensures that defined borders are recognized and adhered, then it is a small price to pay to ensure the grander guarantee or our sovereign rights and our place within the global system.