What Should the United States Do to Secure Its Borders?

Rocky Merz, Treasurer of the Hamilton County Young Democrats Throughout history, generation after generation, the United States was built on the back of its ambitious immigrant population. Whether

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Rocky Merz, Treasurer of the Hamilton County Young Democrats

Throughout history, generation after generation, the United States was built on the back of its ambitious immigrant population. Whether they fled their own war-torn lands or just embarked on a search for freedom, America has always presented an equal opportunity for all. Now that our world is changing from the threats of renewed foreign adversaries, it is no time to eliminate or make more difficult the path of prospective immigrants wanting to come to our land.

As last September made us all painfully aware, this nation is threatened by those not wanting entrance to America to enjoy its freedoms but rather entry in order to destroy and mangle freedom. The apparent conflict between the prosperity created through immigration and the dastardly threat of immigration poses a great challenge.

Weeding out the bad while accepting the men and women of honorable intentions from foreign lands is the policy the United States should implement. Our defense resources should go toward "careful borders" rather than "resistant borders."

Is it wise to spend billions of additional defense resources battling and assisting various foreign nations, or do we invest those resources here at home along our borders and in our communities? Before a war can be won, an attack must be launched; and this country is in no position to wage an attack while our citizens are terrified and our internal defenses are floundering.

President Bush's recent Homeland Security reorganization proposal, establishing a Homeland Security Office and coordinating efforts of various intelligence agencies, was taken directly from legislation drafted by Sen. Joseph Lieberman and other Democrats.

The President needs to give this initiative the utmost priority and support. This reorganization needs to take precedence over waging war on Iraq or any other war for that matter, if our country is truly going to be able to win the war of carefully controlling our borders at home.

Heather Harlow, Chairman of the Blue Chip Young Republicans

Fievel, the mouse in the 1986 children's movie An American Tail, wanted to come to America because the "streets are paved with cheese." Yes, our streets are paved with "cheese" of many dreams ... the dream of getting an education, escaping religious or political persecution or being reunited with a loved one.

As the daughter of an immigrant, I fully support the desire for someone to come to the USA. My mother and her parents arrived here in January 1950, escaping bombed-out Yugoslavia. My grandfather quickly found work in their new hometown.

However, our borders need to have controls and our current controls should be better enforced. One of the largest holes in our borders involves student visas.

If a university issues the paperwork for an international student, and he never appears at the university, is he breaking the law? Maybe, maybe not — but the university isn't sure. He could have decided to attend another university that accepted him and he never informed the first one. In that case, he's legal. Or maybe he used going to college as an excuse and is living elsewhere in the United States. He's not legal because his visa is specifically for educational purposes. But this rarely gets reported to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

This reporting by colleges has become a reality beginning this fall. The INS under President Clinton was supposed to have implemented this several years ago. Unfortunately, it took the tragic events of Sept. 11 to make this happen. This law should be enforced to prevent people from entering our country for illegitimate purposes.

Another positive step President Bush is taking is coordinating agencies such as INS and Customs, along with the visa-issuing function of the State Department, in the new Department of Homeland Security. Historically, these agencies did not share information. Cooperation will be easier if the agencies are in the same department. In 1947, President Truman successfully combined different military agencies into the Department of Defense.

I want people to have the same opportunity that my mother and grandparents had, but want them to follow the law like my grandparents did.

John Meinken, Peace Advocate

I think most people would agree that, in an ideal world, all people could travel freely between countries without being turned back, detained or excessively searched and interrogated. In the current world we live in, however, this type of open-door policy is difficult to achieve. Given the severity of the recent attacks on the United States, it makes sense that we take some reasonable security steps to prevent another attack.

However, it is a mistake to think that stepping up security at our borders will be enough to stop another terrorist act. With nearly 6,000 miles of international borders to patrol and millions of people entering and leaving the country each year, there is no foolproof way to ensure that would-be terrorists can't enter the country. Border security only makes international terrorism more difficult — not impossible.

To further prevent terrorism, we should cooperate with other countries to defend international order and the rule of international law, and we should reexamine aspects of our foreign policy that have promoted extremism and created resentment among many people.

Why did we ever support and help bring to power the Taliban and other violent fundamentalist groups in the Mideast? Why do we refuse to cooperate with the United Nations Security Council or abide by international law in our war on terrorism?

Why haven't we apologized for destroying Sudan's biggest pharmaceutical plant? Why do we continue to give Israel massive amounts of aid and military support (roughly $500 per Israeli per year) when they use it to occupy land in violation of international agreements?

Obviously, we can't help it if people are going to hate us for no good reason. But we shouldn't fuel the fire by behaving like the Clint Eastwoods of the world. Such behavior only provides recruitment propaganda for anti-U.S. extremist groups.

Each month, CityBeat poses a question to young leaders in the local Democrat and Republican parties as well as a selected third party or independent activist.

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