ACRU

Border Security in Wonderland

Perhaps last week’s top news story, not counting whatever Rosie O’Donnell and Lindsay Lohan were doing, was the story of Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta personal injury lawyer who decided it would be a good idea to fly a few thousand miles here and there notwithstanding his knowing that he had a virulent form of tuberculosis. The passengers cooped up with him on his long, trans-oceanic flights have not been entirely thrilled with Mr. Speaker’s decisions. They bear some misgivings about having had to share enclosed cabin space with the updated version of the Black Death.

The effort to track down Mr. Speaker and keep him from re-entering the United States was not entirely unsuccessful. His passport was flagged and instructions were given that he was to be detained at the border. The border agent who encountered him when he tried to enter from Canada picked up the flag, but decided — he claims — that the hold-at-the-checkpoint instructions were “discretionary.” So Mr. Speaker crossed the border.

This episode surely has implications for the immigration package now being considered by Congress. All sides believe (or say they believe) that concrete guarantees of effective border security must be the anchor of any new plan. But how could those guarantees be taken seriously? We saw over the last few days how easy it was for a person whose identity and risk factors were known in advance to walk right past security even though he had been flagged and stopped.

By far the major problem with border security exists at our southern border. The problem is, specifically, that anonymous illegal immigrants by the thousands cross there, mostly with impunity, because they never encounter a border guard at all and even when they do, there is at best only spotty enforcement. Since we now know how porous and inept border security is even when both the opportunity and the mechanisms for enforcement are better than they will ever be in the Southwest, it is simply impossible for sensible people to believe the “guarantees” we are hearing about will be worth the proverbial paper they’re printed on.