US Border: Open or Closed?

Opening or Closing U.S. Borders

Alex Johnson, December 2014

One hotly debated question since September 11th, 2001, is whether or not we should open or close the borders in the United States. Immigration policy has always been an important and highly talked about topic within United States politics and continues to be an issue, which has yet to be fully resolved. The United States was founded by immigrants and has always been a country of immigration. Legal and illegal immigrants have continued to migrate to the United States, because of the freedoms and opportunities we give our citizens. There are many countries throughout the world that do not give their citizens any of the opportunities we give ours. Many people have left their home countries to come to the United States in hopes of finding a job and living the “American Dream”. This has had positive and negative impacts on the United States as a whole. After 9/11, many people were concerned with letting certain people into our country. Since then, there has been constant debate between both political parties regarding what we should do about the immigration problems we are facing today.

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase of illegal immigrants coming into the United States through the southern border. Many of these immigrants are women and young children, fleeing their home countries because of violence and corrupt governments. A lot of the time, they come over to the United States and end up getting caught, holding them in facilities for months and months. There were many politicians who wanted to allow illegal children to come into the United States, and stay in government funded homes and facilities so that they did not have to go back to their home country. While we are a nation built on immigration, this has become a problem, especially in the financial situation we are in today. The federal government has struggled to provide the basic needs to some of our own citizens in the United States, never mind illegal immigrants who are swarming the southern border. As a country, we should be willing to allow more immigrants here, in hopes that they will obtain their citizenship. The relevance of opening or closing the U.S. borders to American citizenship is the fact that the United States is a melting pot, which was founded by immigrants. People of all ethnicities and cultures come over to the United States to live a better live, and to actually become a citizen. After learning about the different struggles and issues revolving around citizenship, something needs to happen with the immigration laws. Many of the immigrants that come to the United States actually value and appreciate the freedoms and rights United States citizens have, sometimes more than the natural born citizens here. With that being said, something needs to be done about the immigration issues our country faces today. We will look at how opening and closing the United States borders can help this immigration problem, and what the advantages are to each.

Let’s first look at the possibility of opening the borders, basically allowing anone into the United States. When a country has borders and immigration laws, it will often permit people to enter a national territory as immigrants. Borders create identities of belonging and non-belonging. When an illegal immigrant comes into the United States without permission, he or she is considered not belonging here. If this illegal immigrant gets caught, they will face deportation (along with never being able to come back to the United States again legally, even if they didn’t have any sort of criminal record). When you open the borders, this will eliminate the “legal” and “illegal” statuses of immigrants. We won’t have to worry about regulating immigration, because everyone will be considered “legal”. According to Bauder, “These controls and restrictions enable the unequal treatment of human beings who are otherwise equal; they distort free markets; they facilitate exploitation and unjust accumulation and they permit and reinforce various forms of oppression.” [1] Creating borders and not allowing certain people into the United States may not be all that fair, considering we are a nation built and founded upon immigration. Once immigrants come into the country, we can then say they have to stay here for a certain amount of years before they become an actual citizen.

Opening America’s borders also could cost less, since we wouldn’t need border patrol, and wouldn’t need to constantly enforce immigration laws. Also, we could free up space in the jails by opening America’s borders. The United States was built on the notions of equality, freedom, justice and liberty for all. Bauder says, “A person’s territorial belonging would no longer be linked to the place or community of birth, but rather to the territory of residence, independent of whether the person migrated there or chose to remain since birth”. [1] Another advantage of opening the border is that there will no longer be illegal immigrants abusing the welfare systems. Immigrants will have to actually contribute to the resources we have in the United States, which would be contributing to the system. A big moral reason for opening the U.S. borders is that families will no longer be separated. When illegal families come over to the United States and have children, their children are born citizens. A lot of the time, the parents of these children end up getting caught and deported, breaking up families and causing long term psychological effects on the kids. By opening the borders, families won’t be separated, and will no longer live in fear of getting caught and deported. According to Bercerra, et al,” Anti immigration policies have deleterious effects on the health of the undocumented population as they live in constant states of fear; individuals are deported, families separated, and they experience discrimination”. [2] One last advantage of opening the United States border’s is higher population could create more jobs. This could actually stimulate our economy.

While there are many advantages of opening the borders to the United States, there are also many advantages of closing the borders. One way the United States could fix the immigration issue, is to close the borders, strictly enforcing immigration laws, and only allowing certain people into this country. Many people support more strict laws on immigration. If the United States made it so there was no other way into the country besides coming legally, it could help solve some of the issues we see today. For instance, there are many occasions where an illegal immigrant has committed multiple crimes because every time they were deported, it was easy enough to get back into the United States. If we made it nearly impossible to sneak into the United States illegally, we could save money used to incarcerate illegal immigrants. Another major issue we see is illegal immigrants using emergency rooms even if they have no health insurance or can’t pay. In turn, this makes the costs of health care go up. If we secured America’s borders and made sure no illegal immigrants come in, we may end up saving money in health care costs. It is estimated that 6 to 10 billion dollars per year goes towards providing healthcare for undocumented immigrants. There are many problems within our own country alone that involved our own citizens that we should worry about before allowing certain people into this country. Another major problem with immigration today is the Mexican drug cartels. Because the southern border of the United States is not secure, many members of drug cartels have access into the United States. This brings a lot of violence to the border cities, and also allows for them to push drugs into the United States. Also, if the Mexican drug cartels have easy access into the United States, this could mean that terrorists could use these access points to come into our country and carry out terrorist attacks. Closing off the entire southern border would make it harder for drugs to come in, and also make it harder for illegal immigrants to come into our country. According to Congressman Duncan Hunter, “Fencing and infrastructure alone are by no means enough to stop illegal crossings, but the presence of physical impediments at the border, when supported by manpower and technology, create barriers that make entry increasingly more difficult and sometimes impossible.” [3] If the United States created a plan to completely secure the American border, it would also put many more people to work. One issue in this country is unemployment. There are many members of the National Guard and military reserve units who are unemployed and looking for jobs related to their field. If the United States decided to secure the southern border, they could use many members of the military who already have training to do so. Another thing to note about illegal immigrants coming into the United States is that as long as they can claim “credible fear”, they are allowed here. When this happens, they then obtain a court date, but many do not show up. The customs and border protection agency is then not able to keep track of the whereabouts of these illegal immigrants. If we had a stronger immigration policy, we could then stop letting so many illegal immigrants into The United States.

Immigration is a major issue and concern in our country today. Many politicians argue both sides of the matter, whether we should close America’s borders, or whether we should open them, and allow immigrants to come in freely. Immigration reform is one of the top priorities among our elected leaders, and something needs to be done among the immigration crisis that has been going on over the last few years. America is a melting pot, and without immigration, we wouldn’t be who we were today. But with that being said, we need to realize the needs of our own citizens before we start welcoming new ones into our country. Illegal immigration has caused many problems for law enforcement agencies and should be looked at more often.

[1] Bauder, Harald. “The Possibilities of Open and no Borders.” Social Justice 39, no. 4 (2014): 76-96,127-128.

[2] BECERRA, DAVID, et al. “Fear vs. Facts: Examining the Economic Impact of Undocumented Immigrants in the U.S.” Journal Of Sociology & Social Welfare 39, no. 4 (December 2012): 111-135. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 27, 2014).

[3] Duncan Hunter, “Fence is right fix for nation’s border problems,” UT San Diego, July 6th, 2014’s-border-problems

Longmire, Sylvia. “How Mexican Cartels are Changing the Face of Immigration.” The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 38, no. 2 (Summer, 2014): 109-114.

Worcester State University Fall 2022