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“Arizona and the Southern Border”

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The Monday morning column from Clark Judge:

Arizona and the Southern Border
By Clark S. Judge, managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc. (

This is a story about illegal immigration and why people in border states feel so strongly about it.

In March, I was in Los Angeles on business. After my meeting, a cab took me to the airport. My driver was a woman, well spoken, clearly affluent, and sad. She told me that she and her husband were Mexican by birth, though they had long ago obtained U.S. citizenship. She was driving at her family’s urging, to help her deal with her grief. Her son had been a cab driver. The night before he was to leave driving to become a police officer, he was murdered. A camera in the cab caught the act and led to the capture of the murderer, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. They had arrived at the destination. As the son waited for his fare, the murderer took out a gun and shot him in the head. [# More #]

The mother asked me, why do they allow people like that into the country? She had attended the trial. The murderer’s family members were all on welfare and selling drugs. She told me that when the verdict came down, decades in prison, he just shrugged. These people don’t care about life, she said, even their own.

There are two sides to arbitrary government. One is to adopt vague and sweeping laws and regulations that give authorities the right to do almost anything they please. I have argued in this space that many of the regulatory initiatives coming from the current administration look like moves in that direction, as do aspects of the health care initiative.

But the other side of arbitrary government is to adopt precise legislation and decline to enforce it. Our immigration laws fit in this second category.

There is nothing ambiguous about these statutes. We have an elaborate system of visas, national quotas, and green cards. It functions extremely effectively at keeping out high-tech engineers, potential entrepreneurs and others who would be considered odds on favorites to make outsized contributions to the nation’s strength and prosperity. From Ireland to India, annual immigration quotas can be filled within weeks or even days or hours of the start of each year.

But these same laws have been acting barely as speed bumps to the undocumented traffic across our southern border. The nightly flood of border crossers is reported to have driven ranchers in some places from their property. One Arizona border rancher was murdered recently by, it is widely believed, smugglers or illegal migrants. A former sheriff in a Texas border county told me several years ago that, in his experience, the U.S. Border Patrol showed little interest or aptitude for stopping the runs. Among the advantages of a federal system is that, if one level of government abdicates its responsibilities, another can step in (within limits) to fill the space. This is what has happened in Arizona.

The denunciations of the Arizona law coming out of Washington have missed how much of a national security threat the border situation represents. The stories of murders and citizens fleeing their homes are not just what policy types dismiss as “anecdotal” evidence. They go to the core of the issue.

A couple of years ago, a senior member of the Bush national security team described Mexico to me as “Somalia on our southern border.” Now hardly a day passes without more horrific tales of the war between the drug cartels and the Mexican government. In a recent ambush, an up-to-40-man commando team attacked an official’s motorcade with armor piercing weapons and grenades. Violence along the border has become so indiscriminate and severe as to suggest that the cartels are trying to gain effective control of long stretches of the border region. Whether or not that is their purpose, it cannot be that we allow the United States to become a safe haven for violent drug cartels or drug thugs on the lam.

During the later part of the Cold War, the Soviets showed an intense interest in fomenting revolution in Central America. One very likely reason was that they wanted to push unrest north into Mexico, ultimately to create chaos on our southern flank, forcing us to pull troops from Europe to deal with immediate pressures next door.

The Soviet Union is gone, but unrest is building. It may be that most illegals are seeking no more than what most of our predecessors sought here, a better life. But it is also true that the situation in Mexico today must surely tell us that not to get control of our border is insanely irresponsible. Arbitrary government is exposing the nation to a great danger.


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