It appears our end-of-year celebrations and contests will include a sustained play-by-play on immigration policy. USA Today warns of “political war” on the issue. We will probably see the gaming continue deep into basketball season. Baseball? The 2016 World Series?
Despite the clear importance of immigration policy and practice to the Department of Homeland Security (where it can be seen as consuming the majority of resources), I have not given much space to immigration in my own working concept of homeland security.
Given the perpetrators of 9/11 it makes some narrative sense why immigration, border, and related agencies were brought together in the new DHS. I will not resist that how we facilitate flows of goods and people into the nation has some sort of security implication. (Though Prohibition and the drug trade and human trafficking and mass migrations across all of human history suggest how tough it is for a big place to be anything close to impermeable.)
In terms of a terrorist threat, while we can make it more complicated and — with unusually good intelligence or vigilance or luck — actually stop some threats at the border, I have never met a professional who thought any of our immigration and border apparatus to be equal to a well-planned terrorist operation. Much more effective is to disrupt the planning in Yemen or Af-Pak or Raqqa or wherever. Border protection is like football’s free safety. If that is what’s left, it’s already been a very tough play. You really want to stop them at the line of scrimmage or farther back.
When it comes to other aspects of homeland security: preparedness, mitigation, resilience, response, recovery, etc., etc…. immigration has seemed to me tangential. There are issues of communicating in languages other than English. Some immigrant communities — or areas where they tend to live — are considered more vulnerable. But there are also studies that find the tight social connections of recent immigrants to generate a resilience-advantage compared to wealthier but more isolated neighbors.
There are a few cases where immigrant communities have become flash-points for radicalizing clusters of (mostly) alienated second-generation young men. But to view this as an immigration or border issue strikes me as, again, giving too much attention to the free safety and not enough attention to the front line. (If you can’t tell, more than forty years and thirty pounds ago I was a defensive tackle.)
But whatever the actual homeland security implications, Secretary Johnson and his senior staff are going to be plenty focused on immigration in the weeks ahead.
So… an attempt to frame the issue for our future dialogue:
I have already acknowledged a personal prejudice on this topic. But I will attempt to listen and learn from those with alternative points-of-view.
There is a plethora of expert — and advocacy — resources available. Just a few:
If you have other sources of information, please include them in your comments. At some point I will try to develop an annotated list of sources.
Trying the football analogy again, the two teams that are coming onto the field this season strike me as having very different strategies and styles of play:
Pragmatists versus legalists
Economic offense versus economic defense
Passing strategy versus ground strategy
Maybe Oregon versus Alabama? Perhaps suggesting comparisons that go well beyond the gridiron.
The differences between the contestants are, in any case, so profound that I expect it may not be much of a game to watch. The ducks may just sort of ride the tide.
I’ve never been a big fan of purist approaches to just about anything.
FRIDAY UPDATE: LOCKER-ROOM TALK
After I posted on Thursday the two teams started sending pre-game signals to each other. Actually it sounded more like set-ups for a boxing match than most football games. Anyway…
The Washington Post gives Capitol Hill trash talk top-of-the-fold prominence: Before immigration action, sides dig in.
Politico leads with Defiant Obama: I will use my power.
Roll Call quotes Senator Cornyn warning Presidential action on immigration could lead to a failure to fund the government.
Our English word “defy” has its origin in a vulgar Latin term fidere meaning to trust, to have fidelity. That de on the front reverses the meaning. Defiance emerges from mistrust.