Bordering on a mistake

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Illegal aliens are still pouring over U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, and it’s time to bring in the troops, thousands of them, say some members of Congress.

They should hold their horses.

President Bush has developed improved border-control systems with our neighbors, and while they may fall short of perfection, so would the proposal of these lawmakers.

If you deployed tens of thousands of gun-toting troops on the 5,000-plus miles of

border to the north and the 2,000 miles to the south, as they apparently want, you would cut down on the illegal crossings. But you would not eliminate any chance of a terrorist sneaking through, and you would do something adverse.

As others have noted, you would almost certainly cramp trade with our two biggest trading partners, doing damage to our economy and theirs.

And you would poke big holes in a border way of life. That might not matter to people who do not live on the border and don’t much care if there is a markedly decreased ability to cross over to shop, go to restaurants or visit with friends and maybe family. It does matter to people on the border. They would not like the alternative of guns staring them in the face at every turn, especially when we all know the Sept. 11 terrorists entered this country legally and were neither Mexican nor Canadian.

Bush’s approach relies on an array of technological devices -- such as X-ray inspection machines and electronic pass cards -- to keep border crossings reasonably fast while bettering the chances of catching smugglers or terrorists. None of this makes our neighbors angry, and should work far better than past systems.

The post-Sept. 11 effort to shore up American domestic security is not to be deplored.

It is hugely important. But a determination to achieve what is finally impossible -- perfect safety -- can have unfortunate consequences.

-- The Birmingham Post-Herald