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This is a big topic. To break it down let's start with a definition. From the folks at Merriam-Webster:

immigration (noun) - travel into a country for the purpose of permanent residence there.

Simple enough and yet this isn't quite what we mean. First: an immigrant has to be a person who travelled into a country. This means—at least according to the definition—if you were born here you are not an immigrant.

Second, an immigrant is apparently a person who came here because they wanted to live here for the rest of their life. They aren't visiting. They plan to put down roots and remain forever.

Before we're even to the gritty details of laws and procedures and status and whatnot it's already clear that the word “immigrant” doesn't mean what a lot of us thought it mean.

It's no wonder our immigration system is a mess.

The Border: Neither Open Nor Closed

Some extremists will say that we have “open borders” today and that what we must do is to “close the border.” That might sound appealing but it's patently ridiculous.

There is an open border between, say, Indiana and Ohio. You can drive or walk from one state to another. There are no laws, no physical barriers, no one to check your papers. You can also take an airplane from one state to another and no one will ask to see your identification when you land or ask you: “What is your purpose in visiting Alaska?”

But if you take a plane to the United States from some other nation you have to go through passport control. If you try to drive in from Canada or Mexico you have to go through a checkpoint. And there's a ton of these: here's a map courtesy of the Goverment Accountability Office: [1]

And if you try to cross somewhere else again it's not like crossing a state line. We do have physical barriers covering about 1/3 of the length of our southern border. [2]

But at the same time it's not like the border is actually closed. A closed border would not allow anyone entry (or exit) at all, except under extreme circumstances. The most notable example of a country with a closed border one most Americans don't want to emulate.

The Border: Controlled, But Poorly

An accurate way to describe the issue is to say that “we are trying to control border crossings…but it's not really working.” Because although we do have some systems in place a lot of people are slipping through the cracks.

[1] Yes, there really is a entire office devoted to government accountability and here's their 2020 report on the border.

[2] That's 354 miles of pedestrian barriers, 300 miles of vehicle barriers, and a total southern border length of 1,954 miles.

immigraton.txt · Last modified: 2024/01/18 10:45 by rslaughter